McDonald's is First to Serve Sustainably Sourced Fish Across Europe

McDonald’s customers across Europe will soon be eating Filet-o-Fish sandwiches made with fish certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

McDonald’s will be the first fast food chain to introduce MSC-certified white fish throughout Europe, and it will be the first food service retailer in many of the 39 European countries to sell products that carry the MSC logo, which will start appearing on packaging in October.

The MSC is an independent global organization set up to tackle the problem of overfishing by recognizing and rewarding sustainable fisheries through its certification and eco-labeling program.

Last year, McDonald’s sold approximately 100 million Filet-o-Fish sandwiches across Europe. 

McDonald’s and MSC made the announced last week on World Ocean’s Day. 7,000 McDonald’s restaurants across 39 European countries achieved certification to the MSC Chain of Custody traceability standard.

The certification is a result of a long-term commitment made by McDonald’s to work with suppliers to improve sustainable fishing practices through its global Sustainable Fisheries Policy.

"McDonald’s Europe’s decision to source white fish products exclusively from fisheries that have met the rigorous MSC standard for sustainability is a tremendous testament to the ability of our industry leaders to transform the seafood market and help drive changes on the water," Rupert Howes, CEO of the Marine Stewardship Council, says. "We’re delighted all of McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish in Europe will be MSC-certified and McDonald’s is making sustainable fish so widely available. This is a fantastic achievement and we hope that others will follow their lead."

One fishery for which the certification is a particular achievement is the Espersen cod fishery in the Eastern Baltic Sea. Five years ago the fishery was in trouble, with stocks at risk of collapsing and no management plan in place. It failed to meet McDonald’s Sustainable Fisheries Policy standards which meant McDonald’s had to stop sourcing fish from there – the first time it had taken such action.

However, McDonald’s says it remained engaged while fish supplier Espersen and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) worked with fishermen to improve sustainability. McDonald’s actions in pulling out of the Eastern Baltic were a catalyst for change, spurring Espersen and other fish suppliers to challenge fisheries to accept standards and auditing, and to persuade the EU to clamp down on illegal fishing. Five years later, fishing mortality in the Eastern Baltic is at its lowest since the 1940s and McDonald’s is once again sourcing from the region.

The MSC announcement is the latest landmark in McDonald’s pan-European sustainability drive. In 2001, the company established its European McDonald’s Agricultural Assistance Programme (MAAP) to increase transparency and drive improvements in quality and sustainability in its agricultural supply chain.

In 2007, McDonald’s helped promote consumer awareness of responsible sourcing by rolling out sustainably-certified coffee in all of its European restaurants. The logos of organizations such as the Rainforest Alliance and Utz Certified now appear on one million cups of coffee served in McDonald’s European restaurants every day.

In September 2009, McDonald’s built on MAAP when it launched the Flagship Farms Programme; a project developed to encourage sharing and improvements in sustainable agriculture, through a direct dialogue amongst progressive farmers across Europe.

McDonald’s also announced a Sustainable Land Management Commitment in March this year. Based on an analysis conducted with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), it requires that, over time, its suppliers only use agricultural raw materials for the company’s food and packaging that originate from sustainably-managed land.

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