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Biotech Science

DNA Bar Coding Finds Mislabeled Sushi 285

Posted by timothy
from the travesty-of-the-seas dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that Kate Stoeckle and Louisa Strauss, who graduated this year from the Trinity School in Manhattan, took on a freelance science project to check 60 samples of seafood using a simplified genetic fingerprinting technique called DNA Bar Coding to see whether the fish New Yorkers buy is what they think they are getting, and 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." (More below.)
"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. The project began over dinner with Stoeckle's father, a scientist and early proponent of the use of DNA bar codings. Instead of sequencing the entire genome, bar coders examine a single gene. Dr. Stoeckle said he was excited to see the technology used in a new way and compared the technique to GPS. 'The smaller and cheaper you make something,' he said, 'the more uses it has.'"
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DNA Bar Coding Finds Mislabeled Sushi

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  • by dakirw (831754) on Friday August 22, 2008 @02:44PM (#24709889)
    It'll be interesting to see whether the sushi shops or fish vendors mislabel on purpose. There's powerful incentive to misidentify if you can get away with it - substitute some cheap fish for premium ones, like the premium tuna example in the article. Also interesting that the students found endangered fish samples as well...
  • Another article (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thepacketmaster (574632) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:03PM (#24710195) Homepage Journal
    This was also covered in an article [thestar.com] in the Toronto Star.
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:16PM (#24710367) Journal
    If NY works the same as holland then this guy is going to be very busy, the one place whose fish passed all tests?

    In holland a newspaper called AD has a feature where they test fries, patat.

    The ones that win proudly display the article and do massive business because of it. With so many bad fast food places being tested as being the best is an excellent piece of advertising.

    If you were going to buy fish/sushi and you just read this article, where would you go?

  • Re:So..?? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Friday August 22, 2008 @03:47PM (#24710839) Journal

    Well, perhaps a certification kit could be made that consumers could use every so often to check on their fishmongers and Sushi bars. Hopefully it wouldn't cost that much but costs would be proportional to the type of food tested. I know some rare sushi can get expensive. I would like to know I'm getting my money's worth. You could then pool the resources and rate different establishments on honesty. Obviously there might be a potential for abuse. So even if i just randomly check and can take the box to the kit comes in with me so they know I'll be looking and give me the right stuff, I would know I got my money's worth and probably find a trusted supplier that I would frequent.

  • by ckthorp (1255134) on Friday August 22, 2008 @05:00PM (#24711857)
    Supplies! Whoever modded the parent insightful apparently hasn't seen an awesome movie.
  • Re:Big Surprise (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ThousandStars (556222) on Friday August 22, 2008 @05:40PM (#24712373) Homepage
    Freakonomics just had a post [nytimes.com] about wine drinkers and taste: "Their conclusion: fancy people with lots of training can tell cheap wine from expensive wine, but regular people cannot." Interesting stuff.

    I used the same article as a component of a short essay on artistic taste [wordpress.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2008 @06:43PM (#24713149)

    But I have to believe that any quality sushi restaurant starts with a whole fish, and in that case the mislabeling would have to be blamed on the restaurant.

    That depends on the fish. Salmon sure, but not tuna. An Albacore Tuna is 20-45 lbs and doesn't stay sushi grade for very long. I buy my sushi fish (for home) from a market that cuts up it's own fish. They'll answer any questions, like where it came from, when it arrived, when it was cut, etc. As the top fish store in town, they'd be fools to try to fake anything. If you eat fresh tuna, in the city, they are probably the ones who cut it, unless it was distributed frozen.

  • Re:So..?? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by demonlapin (527802) on Friday August 22, 2008 @07:14PM (#24713471) Homepage Journal
    I'm generally in agreement with your point, but what if it's the first time you've ever tried it, and you honestly don't know what it's supposed to taste like? You might lose out on an immensely delicious dish just because the first time you ordered it you got sea rat instead.
  • Re:Big Surprise (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dare nMc (468959) on Friday August 22, 2008 @09:16PM (#24714455)

    Penn and Teller "Bullshit" did explore that they could make a $5 meal with a $3 bottle of wine fool all but a very few food critiques with a great presentation at a classy restaurant.

    Though the industry should want some policing. IE I bought "good" sushi, and liked it, but not more than a good steak. So I don't buy sushi. Perhaps I just got screwed, and buying the right stuff would make me a sushi lover.

  • by Solandri (704621) on Friday August 22, 2008 @10:52PM (#24715073)

    Common names are vague, disorganised, and often misleading. Latin names are not.

    Latin names can be wrong too. As the OP alluded to, trout were once considered distinct from salmon and char. The fish were categorized into these groups based on morphological and behavioral differences (trout = Salmo [wikipedia.org], salmon = Oncorhynchus [wikipedia.org], char = Salvelinus [wikipedia.org] ).

    Then DNA testing became available and totally destroyed the well-established taxonomy. Rainbow trout, which for centuries had been the archetypical example of a trout, turned out to be more closely related to the salmons. Atlantic salmon were a trout. Lake trout in the Great Lakes were a char. Click on the above Wikipedia links and you can tell how much damage was done to the taxonomy by comparing the common names to the genus. Rainbow trout (aka steelhead) which were formerly Salmo mykiss are now Oncorhynchus mykiss.

  • by terrymr (316118) <terrymr&gmail,com> on Sunday August 24, 2008 @12:44AM (#24724063)

    Amazing, the stuff you can learn here. Like Sea monkeys [splcenter.org]

  • Re:Big Surprise (Score:3, Interesting)

    by illegalcortex (1007791) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @01:31AM (#24724221)

    I picked red snapper for my example specifically because it was one of the fish most often substituted for. It was actually reading an article many years ago that centered on red snapper that first made me aware of fish fraud. Though typically a restaurant won't be so bold and still claim it's red snapper. They call it "bay snapper", or "gulf snapper" or "pacific red snapper" or, the worst of all in my opinion, just plain "snapper."

    Ah, here's the article I read many years ago that opened my eyes to the whole thing:
    http://www.houston-press.com/2001-11-01/news/fish-fraud/full [houston-press.com]

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