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The Almighty Buck Science Idle

Restaurants Plan DNA-Certified Seafood Program 174

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-what-you-pay-for dept.
Restaurants across the globe will soon use DNA technology to reassure customers that they are getting what they pay for. In recent years getting "counterfeit" seafood has become a big problem. In 2007 several people became seriously ill from eating illegally imported pufferfish that had been mislabeled as monkfish. From the article: "David Schindel, a Smithsonian Institution paleontologist and executive secretary of the Washington-based Consortium for the Barcode of Life, said he has started discussions with the restaurant industry and seafood suppliers about utilizing the technology as a means of certifying the authenticity of delicacies. 'When they sell something that's really expensive, they want the consumer to believe that they're getting what they're paying for,' Schindel told The Associated Press."
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Restaurants Plan DNA-Certified Seafood Program

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  • FooGoo me! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 27, 2011 @07:39PM (#38185032)

    I hate it when I pay top dollar for blue whale and they serve me inferior dolphin.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 27, 2011 @07:45PM (#38185072)
    ...for intentionally mislabeled "certified" seafood, sold at five times the price of the regular mislabeled seafood. Just like the claims of "organic" vegetables, I won't believe a word of it unless the seafood I'm buying is still intact and clearly recognizable.
    • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @07:54PM (#38185116) Homepage Journal
      The food scene is like the art scene, it's full of pretentious yuppies saying shit like, "I love dungfish gonads, the texture is so ethereal it dances across my palate like Penn State football coaches dance around the allegations..." Of course they only believe that because they're parroting it word-for-word from the last restaurant review, every time they recommend dungfish gonads to their friends.

      More to the point, fishes that were once considered garbage bait fish, like squid, are now haute cuisine and are on every damn menu. Salmon eggs are often sold as fish-bait, but you put 'em on sushi and their worth is jacked up by hundreds of percents.
      • by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @08:07PM (#38185218)
        I know what country you live in... Squid has been a delicacy for the rest of the world for years. I remember a Portuguese Restaurant with a squid body stuffed with mixed seafood in a cream sauce. It was amazing. Watch "Fear Factor" some time with a world traveler. They will laugh out loud with the "Food Challenges."
      • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @08:16PM (#38185282)

        More to the point, fishes that were once considered garbage bait fish, like squid, are now haute cuisine and are on every damn menu. Salmon eggs are often sold as fish-bait, but you put 'em on sushi and their worth is jacked up by hundreds of percents.

        Different fish (and food in general for that matter) have always been a rather location specific taste. In many parts of Europe, Cod is considered very good eating, yet here in Australia it is considered rubbish. Kippers (especially smoked) are good eating in Britain, but you can't get them in many parts of the world. Eastern Europeans (and a few other European countries like Germany and Belgium and Norway) love smoked and pickled Herring. Aside from a few measily jars in the back isle of a supermarket it is almost impossible to find outside of there. The Russians have always loved caviar.

        It isn't so much that what was once rubbish is now considered fine dining, but rather that due to multiculturalism, many foods that were once unpopular in a foreign country are being driven by populations that are made up of many more nationalities.

        • by PCM2 (4486) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @08:41PM (#38185456) Homepage

          It isn't so much that what was once rubbish is now considered fine dining, but rather that due to multiculturalism, many foods that were once unpopular in a foreign country are being driven by populations that are made up of many more nationalities.

          Actually, it's not so much about "fine dining" as the cycle of once-populous varieties being overfished almost to the point of extinction, forcing the mass-market fisheries to switch to different kinds of fish. The orange roughy craze of a few years ago was a fine example. You wouldn't have seen orange roughy on menus in the 70s or earlier; it's a variety of fish commonly called a "slimehead," and it's really ugly-looking, something like an angler fish. It also doesn't taste like much. That's why they marketed it as a "fine dining" fish, even though it's pretty easy to catch in huge amounts by deep trawling -- because they needed to trump up some reason why you'd actually eat it. Explain away that bland taste as "subtle, delicately flavored flesh," ship the fish to stores already filleted (so the customer never sees the whole fish), and never mention the word "slimehead," and it becomes the new market darling. Of course, as it turned out, orange roughy can live for over 100 years and they don't even begin breeding until they're 20 or 30, so they're incredibly susceptible to overfishing. Hence why you hardly ever see this "miracle fish" on menus anymore;10-15 years into the "craze" and the supplies are already dangerously depleted. On to the next fish.

          • I don't know.... right now, I'm dreaming of what it would be like to add that orange roughy thing to a turducken.

            now THAT's good eating!

            • by Sulphur (1548251)

              I don't know.... right now, I'm dreaming of what it would be like to add that orange roughy thing to a turducken.

              now THAT's good eating!

              If you add ham to a turducken, then is it a hamsturducken. /ducks

        • by Centurix (249778) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {xirutnec}> on Sunday November 27, 2011 @10:28PM (#38186136) Homepage

          I've been fishing for over 30 years and I can taste the difference between Whiting caught off the Brisbane Bar and Whiting caught further up the sunshine coast. It's subtle, but environment always plays a major role.

          Just on a side note, most Australian Cod don't belong to the Gadus genus, they're closer to perciformes. So they're not really Cod. From memory, they collectively get called Cod, like Murray Cod. You're right though, terrible eating.

      • by TapeCutter (624760) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @08:54PM (#38185534) Journal
        I'll have you know I was eating squid stuffed with dungfish gonads WAY before it became trendy!
      • I once read, though I have absolutely no way of verifying it, that lobster was in this category for ages - servants' contracts in New England specified that they were not to be served lobster more than X times a week.

        As for me, I believe the most underrated food on the planet is a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Strawberry or apricot preserves, for preference.
        • Lobster was absolutely in this category. When my grandmother was a child in the 30's 40's, families hard up for food would collect lobsters that washed up on shore. After eating, they would bury the shells in their yard to prevent neighbors from seeing or smelling the evidence in garbage cans, such was the embarrassment of eating lobster.
      • same in the coffee world with things like Kopi Luwak [wikipedia.org] and Monsooned Malabar [wikipedia.org] and don't get me started on just how pretentious espresso snobs can get...
    • Normally I'd agree but given that there are some practical reasons to make sure you're eating one thing but not another...

    • by Lord Kano (13027)

      ...for intentionally mislabeled "certified" seafood, sold at five times the price of the regular mislabeled seafood. Just like the claims of "organic" vegetables, I won't believe a word of it unless the seafood I'm buying is still intact and clearly recognizable.

      I have a couple of friends and relatives who are on that organic foods kick. I tell them, that there used to be a time when all of the food was organically grown and had no pesticides, additives or preservatives. The average life expectancy was under 30. Fuck that, I'll take my chances with GM foods.

      LK

      • You're making a fallacious syllogism; life expectancy has increased due to better sanitation, improved medical techniques, and workplace security, not industrialization of food manufacturing. It may very well be, although difficult to prove, that we haven't reaped all the possible increase in life expectancy, because of the worsening quality of our food sources. As an European, my mind immediately goes to the obesity epidemic in the US...
        • Well, there is some truth to the idea. Before our modern food system, the one the organic advocates seem to so resent, famine and malnutrition were not uncommon (in too much of the world, they still are).. Food poisoning gets a bit more complected because if you're eating relatively fresh from a system that doesn't give any chance for cross contamination, you've got lower odds, but if you've got food stored, then you're going to want some sort of preservative. Food additives could go either way, since so

      • I can sympathize with that. I tell people this: organic food is dogma. Sure, you could cite the studies showing that organic food is not all it is cracked up to be (though for every one of these the Rodale Institute or some other usually well connected group makes another saying just the opposite), or show the successes of modern agricultural science, It isn't science, it isn't reason, it is appeal to nature, technophobic, nonsense. Yes, there are good things in organic production practices, like how we

  • hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nomadic (141991) <[nomadicworld] [at] [gmail.com]> on Sunday November 27, 2011 @07:52PM (#38185108) Homepage
    Personally I think we should encourage counterfeit seafood; for example, find an indistinguishable but sustainable substitute for shark fin and that's a good thing, I won't lose any sleep over social-climbing Chinese middle class consumers thinking they're buying genuine shark fins when they're not.
    • by Hentes (2461350)

      The problem is that the substitute was toxic.

      • by nomadic (141991)
        You don't need DNA testing to measure for toxicity.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          The people preparing the fish should have known better. The problem is that the monkfish liver (known as "ankimo" in Japanese) is often referred to as the "foie gras" of the sea, and is prepared in a similar manner to its landlocked analog.

          The liver(and gonads, and other organs) of the pufferfish("Fugu" in Japanese), in contrast, are highly toxic and are the reason why only skilled chefs should prepare it.
          It's like going to a bar expecting to be served with Ethyl Alcohol and instead being served with
        • Re:hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Qzukk (229616) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @09:02PM (#38185586) Journal

          Of course not, you just have to test "monkfish" for pufferfish poison. While you're at it, you should test it to make sure it doesn't have stonefish poison, lion-fish venom, Kyphosus fuscus "dreamfish" hallucinogens, or any of the other millions of poisons out there nature invented to kill you.

          Or, you could test to make sure your "monkfish" is monkfish.

    • Re:hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

      by artor3 (1344997) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @08:45PM (#38185486)

      People deserve to know what they're paying for. You open the door to all sorts of abuses otherwise.

      • by nomadic (141991)
        On a moral level, conservation of endangered species takes higher priority.
        • That's an amazingly slippery slope you have there. You actually think it makes more sense to keep something legal and let companies lie about what they're selling you than to just ban the sale of it?

          What happens when your substitute kills someone allergic to it? Who takes the blame?

    • Re:hmm (Score:4, Funny)

      by formfeed (703859) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @10:00PM (#38185976)

      Personally I think we should encourage counterfeit seafood

      Counterfeit seafood?
      Could I interest you in delicious green patties, that are algae based, and definitely not made from anything else?

  • Problem is "illegally imported pufferfish that had been mislabeled as monkfish" ("poor man's lobster,")

    Translating: problem is vanity masqueraded as "pursuit of happiness".

    • by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @08:10PM (#38185238)
      Nope. That is just old fashioned fraud killing people. There has been a lot of this lately from one nation. From toxic toothpaste to lead painted toys... Simple solution. Buy local food that still looks like the food... It also happens to be green, but I do it anyway.
      • by Golddess (1361003) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @09:29PM (#38185784)

        It also happens to be green

        I don't care what Dr Seuss says, ham should not be green.

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        Not to defend these suppliers, but keep in mind that part of the reason these toxic chemicals are used lies on your side of the Pacific. The US demands cheaper and cheaper goods, big buyers like Wal-Mart squeeze their suppliers to the max, and some unscrupulous suppliers respond by offering the prices Wal-Mart demands but replacing certain ingredients with sub-standard ones. Many of these toxic ingredients happen to be cheap.

        The solution may lie in Wal-Mart et. al. demanding certification that the products

        • Actually, some consumers ARE willing to pay, and that is what my post was about. I pay more than walmart prices, but I get better food. Do not NEED the government to do it. Just educated consumers. And if you choose not to educate yourself, you deserve the food you get. Buyer beware...
          • by wvmarle (1070040)

            It may help for the food part, to get at least the type of food you expect - but from the outlook you can not normally see whether it has been sprayed with DDT or not sprayed at all. There is a good reason DDT is prohibited now, as are certain other insecticides and pesticides, but you can not trust the farmers themselves to set up or enforce such a prohibition. Personally I also try to buy local food, but with 7 mln people on just 1,000 sq.m. of which half is country park, there is not much produced locall

      • by Greyfox (87712)
        Not to mention honey. Apparently it's bad enough to actually be banned. They're getting around the ban by shipping to India and importing from there. An easy solution to that would be to also ban honey from India. Or better yet, buy your honey from a guy who owns beehives. And ideally, in jars you saw him fill a second ago from inside an angry swarm of bees (Or however that works, I'm sure one of the beekeepers here will be happy to explain...)
  • by FudRucker (866063) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @07:55PM (#38185128)
    between the Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill, Fukushima disaster, and untold other spills and illegal dumping in to the ocean i no longer trust seafood from any part of the ocean anymore, i hold no grudge against the seafood industry because it is not their fault that the ocean is where all the pollution eventually ends up since both shit and water flows down hill. i feel bad for both them and the ocean and those that like seafood (i like seafood) but the ocean i feel is no longer safe to eat from...
    • by nomadic (141991) <[nomadicworld] [at] [gmail.com]> on Sunday November 27, 2011 @07:57PM (#38185146) Homepage
      The seafood industry gets plenty of blame for the state of the oceans, so I would not give them any sympathy.
    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      yes its not their fault what so ever as millions of rusting, smoking, oil leaking fishing boats head out to spew diesel directly into the water every single day as they dragnet every single thing from a hundreds of square miles.

    • Your fears are misplaced. Though plenty of pollution is (very regrettably) dumped into the oceans, the ocean is an extremely huge place volume-wise and the low density of pollutants in ocean water will not really affect your food.

      (Well, there are a couple of chemicals, notably mercury, which are subject to biomagnification, i.e. things higher up the food chain get all the mercury from everything below them on the food chain; these can reach perceptible levels esp. if you're eating one kind of food all the t

  • What (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    There's DNA in my fish? Disgusting! What is wrong with this country?!

  • by Improv (2467)

    If you can't tell the difference, and arn't refraining from something for ethical/religious reasons, why does it matter? Whether you tell me that food is a delicacy from France or it's from down the street, it's going to taste the same to me. Either I'll like it or I won't. Stop worrying about this authenticity crap. You can't brand fish that way.

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @08:16PM (#38185278) Journal

      If you can't tell the difference, and aren't refraining from something for ethical/religious reasons, why does it matter?

      If that's the case, I have some AAA rated derivatives to sell you.

      Alternatively, fraud is fraud, and we have laws against it because allowing fraud is bad public policy..

    • by ShogunTux (1236014) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @08:18PM (#38185294)

      One word: allergies

      For instance, I personally am allergic to ordinary boned fish, but don't have a problem with shelled fish. So if I order crab, it's important to me to know that it's actually crab, and not imitation crab, because one will make me sick, and the other won't.

      • psst: that's not chicken, either.

      • by Improv (2467)

        That's a fair argument. I mainly am bothered about abstract concerns for "authenticity" of food for taste reasons, but I am very sympathetic to concerns such as yours.

    • "You can't brand fish that way"

      It's not about branding. It's about price and sustainability. When enough volume of thing$ are fraudulently or erroneously labeled then thing$ either end up with an artificially high price, because supply of real thing$ is known to be small; or the glut of fake thing$ artificially lower the price of the real product because supply seems plentiful, although the supply is largely fake.

      Either way a free market requires accurate information regarding supply and

    • by denzacar (181829) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @08:34PM (#38185398) Journal

      Besides all the smuggling and poaching issues (i.e. poaching endangered tuna species from protected fisheries and selling them as their not so threatened cousins), fraud issues (i.e. selling you bottom of the barrel fish at top quality prices) - the main reason that should concern you and everyone else is right there in the summary.

      In 2007 several people became seriously ill from eating illegally imported pufferfish that had been mislabeled as monkfish.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetraodontidae [wikipedia.org]

      (Maple) Puffer fish are generally believed to be the second-most poisonous vertebrate in the world, after the Golden Poison Frog. Certain internal organs, such as liver, and sometimes their skin are highly toxic to most animals when eaten, but nevertheless the meat of some species is considered a delicacy in Japan (as æè±s, pronounced as fugu), Korea (as bok), and China (as æè±s he2 tun2) when prepared by chefs who know which part is safe to eat and in what quantity.

    • by PCM2 (4486)

      If you can't tell the difference, and arn't refraining from something for ethical/religious reasons, why does it matter? Whether you tell me that food is a delicacy from France or it's from down the street, it's going to taste the same to me. Either I'll like it or I won't. Stop worrying about this authenticity crap. You can't brand fish that way.

      Personally, I think food should be labeled as what it is. If I buy something that says it's hamburger, I don't expect there to be 20 percent textured soy protein mixed in with the meat. Likewise, if I order a fish off a menu or buy it in a store, I expect it to be the fish it says it is.

      Unfortunately, the fish industry seems particularly prone to this sort of mislabeling. Lots of types of fish seem to have "common names" that aren't particularly descriptive of what they actually are, yet they're allowed to

    • The fact you don't mind being scammed is irrelevant to everyone else. It's still fraud, in particular "bait and switch" style fraud.
  • by goodmanj (234846) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @08:09PM (#38185228)

    Good news, folks! If you live in Massachusetts, it'll soon be easier to find out if you got the right fish from Legal Seafood than it will be to find out whether the right man was convicted by the state legal system!

    http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/Access_To_PostConviction_DNA_Testing.php [innocenceproject.org]

    • by identity0 (77976)

      Hey, with any luck that sort of argument will make it easier to convince people to get DNA testing on them.

  • Belief vs. truth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Menkhaf (627996) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @08:09PM (#38185236)

    'When they sell something that's really expensive, they want the consumer to believe that they're getting what they're paying for,' Schindel told The Associated Press.

    Nuff' said.

  • ... to the old fortune cookie solution:

    http://www.funnyandjokes.com/chinese-fortune-cookie-gone-wrong.html [funnyandjokes.com]

  • If you don't want to take chances with your seafood then you shouldn't be playing "Wheel of Fish". Come on people, this isn't rocket science.
  • Man in the middle (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Sunday November 27, 2011 @08:49PM (#38185508)
    The problem with the man in the middle is the man in the middle. If I don't trust a restaurant to serve me the seafood I want, how can I trust them to not falsify the DNA information? This is an absolutely stupid idea and does nothing to "reassure" people. Stop insisting you want $5.99 all you can eat lobster, and eat somewhere decent for a change. Until you can bring your own independent rapid-test kit and do your own test before your food gets cold, guess what - you still have to trust the damned restaurant.
    • IMO this isn't so much about protecting consumers from restaurants as it is about protecting both restaurants and consumers from corruption further back in the supply chain. It only takes one corrupt guy in the supply chain to introduce fake produce and if he is far enough back in the supply chain he can probablly dissapear before his actions are traced back to him.

  • by mark_reh (2015546) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @09:08PM (#38185650) Journal

    They give you a piece of paper that says it's authentic, but there is nothing that ties the paper to the diamond. And why should we trust "they" either? We all know that it's all a racket with the De Beers cartel keeping diamonds off the market to prop up the price and we should trust them to give us a piece pf paper that has some sort of truth on it? We can manufacture bigger and better diamonds than natural ones, and even CZ are hard to tell from diamonds except by their unnatural perfection.

    Now the fish market has taken a cue from De Beers. They're going to do DNA sequencing and print a certificate to identify species, but what restaurant goers know which species of fish they want to eat and which they don't? It's like the jewelry store showing you a diamond under a microscope. You get the illusion that you know something, but you don't really know if you're even looking at a diamond. And how does the paper DNA test report "attach" to the fish it came from?

    Next it will be wine-marketing- "this particular fish was caught by Mr. X, a 5th generation fisherman, at great risk to his life and limb, and was caught in 234' of water in the Bering sea at 2:37am yesterday. It was prepared by Mr. Y, a fourth generation chef who has studied under Mr. Z for 14 years before finally being allowed to do more than cut vegetables. It was seasoned with the essence of ptanga from Zanzibar..." etc. Today it's on special for only $342.

    The bullshit will just keep piling higher and higher until only the 1% can afford to eat fish.

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @09:16PM (#38185704)

    may I take you order? do you want the DNA Certified food or the mystery food?

  • "When they sell something that's really expensive, they want the consumer to believe that they're getting what they're paying for..."

    He couldn't give two shits that what you're eating is what you paid for, he just wants you to *believe* that you're eating what you paid for.

  • oh.. - It's the food that gets tested. Okay, I'm for it then.
  • now I know that my ram's bladder cup really is from a ram.

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      now I know that my ram's bladder cup really is from a ram.

      Just so it is not ram's bladder ice cream cup served on a bed of encrypted spaghetti.

  • If they will give seafood a honest rating system?

    AAA = tested - definitely looks, smells, and taste like lobster.
    AA = some lobster and some cod
    A = a few drops of lobster juice 100% cod flesh
    -A = imitation seafood can be anything found safe and cheap with additives, and fish juice added to make it taste like any type of seafood.
    -AA = imitation seafood can be unsafe for children and pregnant women contains all imitation ingredients.
    -AAA = imitation not safe for human consumption but sold cheap in supermark
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday November 28, 2011 @01:06AM (#38186902) Homepage

    Just get rainbow trout. It's produced in commercial fish farms in high volume at low cost, so nobody tries to pass something else off as trout. It also tastes good and tends not to accumulate mercury, because it's low on the food chain.

  • When there are "counterfeit" seafood, why can't there be "counterfeit" DNA / Certificate?
  • How about some process telling me that the sea food I eat is free of Oil spill dispersants, Oil contamination and the like?
  • and they serve you a sponge monkey!

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