Canned tuna, pirates and mysteries


Equal or similar at first glance, canned tuna packages, on the other hand, differ in several respects that are far from marginal. Salt, Italianness and sustainability are the three key words. But labels, often unclear or outlawed, require careful investigation to understand the differences in value across products. Comparative analysis on the

olive oil tuna

from 6 brands



More salt less tuna

In choosing the

canned tuna

one item of note is found in the last entry of the nutrition table, salt. It is a pity that the ways in which different brands report their tenor are so varied as to prevent comparison.

The nutrition statement is referred in only two out of six labels to whole and drained product. These are Asdomar and Nostromo. Where the latter contains as much as half a gram more salt than the former.

The other labels report only the value on the drained tuna (2 out of 6), or only on the whole (1 out of 6). St. Cusumanus, however, does not specify anything.

The inability to compare salt content in the various products is – to say the least – disreputable. In fact, the average daily salt intake in Europe is twice the danger threshold specified by the WHO. The excess of

salt is a threat to health

and must be kept under control

. Salt also promotes water retention. In the human body as in tuna meat, more salt corresponds to more water-swollen meat.

The salting of fish moreover, it is performed through a solution of water and salt (brine). A golden opportunity for shrewd operators who decide to prioritize profit over consumer health. In fact, adding more water and salt means ‘saving’ a few grams of tuna (or oil), which, related to millions of cans, reaches million-dollar values.

Product Amount of salt given in the nutrition table
On the whole product On the drained product Unspecified (assumed on whole product)
ASDOMAR 0,88 g 1,1 g
CALLIPO nd 1,1 g
RIO SEA 1,1 g nd
SAN CUSUMANO nd nd 1 g
NOSTROMO 1,1 1,6 g
MAREBLU nd 1 g

Mysterious carbohydrates, Nostromo and Mareblu tuna.

Nostromo and Mareblu – two of the six products examined-express an incomprehensible, mysterious fact. Their nutrition statements refer to the presence of carbohydrates and sugars, which, however, is not justified in the ingredient list (tuna, olive oil, salt).

The Mareblu label

carries an unusual news item, below the nutrition table. ‘

Contains negligible traces of carbohydrates and sugars

‘. Negligible how much? Hard to say, since no clue as to the possible source of carbohydrates is on the label. Although the same carries a redundant, and indeed impermissible, claim since it is common to the category of products in question, ‘contains no preservatives or flavorings‘. (1)

Nostromo Tuna even indicates in the nutrition statement the presence of 1.8 percent carbohydrates in the product. But where do these carbohydrates come from? Certainly not from tuna, nor from olive oil or salt, which are naturally free of it. The label is silent. And so the company, in vain asked by Great Italian Food Trade. They would do well to check, the control authorities, possible hypotheses of adulteration with modified fibers or starches or other impermissible substances.

Further doubts about Nostromo result from the fact that the nutritional information on the company’s website differs from that on the product’s retail packaging. (2) The published nutrition table online, moreover, does not meet the criteria of the law. Because it refers to sodium (instead of salt), mentions cholesterol (banned!) and reports nutrients in the wrong order. Great Italian Food Trade has reported this critical issue to the company, but the company has not yet restored correct consumer information.


Made in Italy.

, what does it mean?

Tuna is always caught In distant seas indicated on the label. Yet it is presented as Made in Italy, as sometimes processed, sometimes just packaged in Italy. Nothing illegal, be it understood. For it is enough that ‘the last substantial transformation’ was carried out within national borders to award the product the fateful tricolor. But the reality from one case to another is quite different.

Some tuna industries canned are limited to importing so-called strands from abroad. That is, agglomerates of fish assembled abroad by local workers(under very different conditions from those in force in Italy), pressed and frozen. When the loin arrives at the plant, it is thawed, cooked and canned. Just enough to acquire the

Made in Italy


Other manufacturers, on the other hand, process fish entirely in Italy. In this case, the frozen tuna are delivered whole to the Italian plant and it is here that they are fully processed. That is, filleted, separated into the various parts, cooked and added the other ingredients, until canned.

A substantial difference

, including the impact on our economy

. But to understand where the product is actually processed, one can only rely on voluntary information from the manufacturer, such as ‘

Entirely crafted in Italy


It is entirely processed in Italy



, which organizes guided tours of its plant in Calabria. So too Asdomar, which on the company website shows the daily processing of whole tuna at its plant in Olbia, Sardinia. And also the tuna

San Cusumano

by Nino Castiglione, which boasts on its label ”

produced in


‘ and posts a video of the processing on its corporate website.

Among the latest three products championships, Mareblu (owned by the giant Thai Union) indicates the Made in Ghana. While Nostromo (from the Spanish group Bald) e Rio Sea (of Bolton, a group ranging from tuna to Wc Net, from Bostik to Collistar cosmetics) report nothing. Therefore, one has to study their corporate sites thoroughly to discover that the processing of their fish comes from who knows where. Although Rio Mare boasts on the label that its tuna is ‘worked passionately in Italy since 1965‘. But in what sense ‘



The sustainability of canned tuna

Sustainability of the fishery is another major factor in distinguishing canned tuna. The type of fishing – with or without



Fish Aggregating Device

), selective or not–has a crucial impact on the marine ecosystem and its conservation. For the future of the tuna, but also for the preservation of non-target species (such as dolphins). And the focus on sustainability varies dramatically, from one industry to another. This was taken care of by Greenpeace, which unveiled the fishing methods adopted by major


Italians and compiled the only


objective to which they can refer with confidence. Beyond various logos and certifications that in some cases, unfortunately, have little meaning, the environmental association certifies that the only producer with all the papers in order is Asdomar.

Marta Strinati


(1) Cf. reg. EU 1169/11, Article 7.1.c

(2) In violation of the criteria set forth in reg. EU 1169/11, subject to appropriate sanctions under Leg. 231/17. See, in this regard, our free eBook ‘1169 penis. Reg. EU 1169/11, food news, controls and penalties

Marta Strinati

Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".