Traceability breakthrough against fishy origins

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 28th November 2011

Restaurants will soon use cutting edge DNA ‘barcoding’ technology to assure customers they are eating exactly what they ordered, rather than inferior substitutes, according to a leading U.S. scientist.

Secretary of the Washington-based Consortium for the Barcode of Life, Dr David Schindel, believes the DNA ‘barcoding’ has potential applications for food companies and retailers.

The Consortium for the Barcode of Life is an international consortium of scientists aiming to compile a comprehensive reference library for the Earth’s 1.8 million known species.

DNA barcoding uses a short genetic sequence to identify species, just like a supermarket scanner distinguishes products using their unique barcodes.

In October 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (USDA) approved DNA barcoding as a way to prevent mislabelling of seafood in the United States.

According to the USDA, numerous potential health risks are associated with misbranding seafood species in the U.S. For example, in 2007, several serious illnesses resulted from the illegal importation of toxic pufferfish that had been mislabeled as monkfish to circumvent U.S. import restrictions for this product.

The fish barcoding will enable the identification of any fish, fish fillet, fish fin, fish egg or larvae, even cooked products or semi-digested remains found in stomachs.

Dr Schindel will discuss the application of DNA barcoding at the University of Adelaide on Wednesday at the Consortium’s fourth annual conference.

Dr Schindel will explain how the DNA barcoding can also be applied to disease and pest identification, and rapid environmental surveying.