Friday, August 22, 2008

Waiter! There's a tilapia in my tuna

Using a simple DNA fingerprinting test, a couple of students have been able to determine that a lot of fish-eaters are having the scales pulled over their eyes. This report in today's New York Times described how the two sent samples of fish from restaurants and stores in New York to a lab for DNA testing.

They found that one-fourth of the fish samples with identifiable DNA were mislabeled. A piece of sushi sold as the luxury treat white tuna turned out to be Mozambique tilapia, a much cheaper fish that is often raised by farming. Roe supposedly from flying fish was actually from smelt. Seven of nine samples that were called red snapper were mislabeled, and they turned out to be anything from Atlantic cod to Acadian redfish, an endangered species.

Turns out that counterfeiting is not limited to semiconductors, consumer electronics, pharmaceuticals, toys, tobacco, wine, apparel, golf clubs, luxury goods, auto parts, aircraft spares, and cosmetics after all!

Perhaps in the future restaurateurs and retailers will have to prove to their clientele that their sushi is not fishy!