Monday, December 7, 2015

Combat fish food fraud

Over the years I have presented several studies that showed ongoing food fraud in the seafood trade and how DNA Barcoding helped to unravel these cases. Now a large multi-species survey of fish labeling accuracy indicates a marked reduction of seafood mislabeling in supermarkets, markets and fishmongers in the EU.

Scientists in six European countries tracked samples of the mostly commonly consumed fish, including cod, tuna, hake and plaice, after a series of studies going back 5 years had shown mislabeling in up to 40% of cases.

Of the 1 563 DNA sequence samples examined, just 77 (4.9%) proved to be mislabeled. Most commonly mislabeled was anchovy (15.5%), hake (11.1%) and tuna (6.8%). By contrast only 3.5% of cod and 3% of haddock was  wrongly labeled. 

The study argues that this positive trend is due to a combination of transnational legislation, governance and public outreach, which has forced new regulation and self-regulation, and it contrasts the European 'turn-around' with the experience of the United States, where improvements appear more sluggish.

Genetic identification methods have progressively exposed the inadequacies of the seafood supply chain, raising awareness among the public, and serving as a warning to industry that malpractice will be detected. This evidence indicates we are now on the road to greater transparency, which should help the management of exploited stocks worldwide, but further standardised studies on a greater range of food provision channels, such as restaurants and auctions, are warranted, in order to have a complete understanding of the current state of the trade.

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