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08. 07. 2006

DNA testing restaurant menus


A couple of great journalists from the St Petersburg Times took local restaurants and seafood sellers to task this weekend. After a Florida fish importer was convicted of mislabeling one million pounds of Alaskan catfish as grouper the paper decided to start testing the authenticity of seafood dishes at local restaurants. Out of the eleven dishes sampled only six were as advertised.

The fish were identified by Therion, a DNA testing company specializing in establishing the genetic history of animal lines. Fish typing has been a booming business as import taxes designed to protect American fishermen have encouraged importers and restaurants to save a couple of bucks wherever possible by illegally passing off cheaper substitutes as premium products.

The grouper is a very easy fish to fake as there are ninety-nine distinct members of the Genus Epinephelus, and any of those fish may be legally designated as a grouper. The restaurants mostly blamed their importers, but it isn�t surprising that over 50% of the dishes were substitutions. Without an in depth knowledge of ichthyology it can be almost impossible to tell a real grouper from a good fake.

(Thanks for the tip, Drew)

Posted by Johnny    Category: eco
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Comments (1)

Before retiring I worked as a lab technician for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

We used a technique called electrofocalisation on gel to identify fish species.

Many fish and seafood importers had a tendency to substitude a specie for an other. Very often we were not surprised to find a sample labeled as haddock that was in fact common cod.

Each species have their own pattern and this one is unique for a given specie. It's important when you have many subspecies like the soles for example. A grey sole has not the same pattern as a lemon sole and so on...

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