ABU DHABI // Bulking up frozen fish with ice to increase the sale weight is common in the UAE, say staff at many restaurants, supermarkets and hotels.
Frozen fish is usually covered with an ice layer called glaze that accounts for between 6 and 10 per cent of the weight.
The glaze protects the fish from oxidation, dehydration and general deterioration.
In the US, the glazing limit is 10 per cent but the UAE has no limit, and many food outlets have been victims of the practice.
"We used to get our cream dory delivered with a lot of ice," said Fouad Abouzeid, chef of the Sennara restaurant in Abu Dhabi's One to One Hotel. "But when I found out the suppliers added too much of it to make more money, I complained, and they stopped."
He is not alone. Jimmy's Killer Prawns in Abu Dhabi also receives its prawns and cream dory frozen. But supplier sometimes go overboard with the ice.
"The highest glazing we've experienced was a few weeks ago when a 2.2-kilogram bag of shrimps was 37 per cent glazing," said Moses Barnabas, the restaurant's operations manager.
"That means you only get 1.5kg of fish, but the label doesn't say that."
Staff do regular spot checks to ensure the glaze does not exceed 25 per cent.
"We do it in the presence of the suppliers because I want them to know that we check," said Mr Barnabas. "They need to make sure their labelling is right."
Supermarkets have also been targeted. A 1kg pack of frozen prawns at an Al Quoz store was found to be more than 60 per cent glaze.
"If you want to buy shrimps buy them fresh," said JV, a fish expert and manager of a seafood processing company in Dubai.
Experts say the practice goes on worldwide.
"When you buy frozen fish you find a lot of ice, too much of it," said Ahmad Ibrahim Abdelaziz, a waiter at Dubai's Fish Basket restaurant.
"I haven't seen it through our suppliers but I know they do it a lot in Egypt, especially in supermarkets. They do that because it's cheaper for them."
Daniel Brouka, the executive chef Abu Dhabi's Meridien Hotel, agreed.
"It's common practice throughout the world and it's a problem in the industry," Mr Brouka said. "I've heard it happen in the Philippines, China and Japan."
He said many suppliers profit from bulking up.
"We have 10 to 20 per cent glazing on our hammour, but if it gets to 50 per cent, that's a bit extreme and it's exaggerated," said Mr Brouka.
"Some companies pride themselves on delivering zero glaze, from Spain and Argentina."