.The solution to this may not be long coming. Currently, South Florida’s College of Marine Science is trying to do something to check this fraudulent practice. The research group came up with a handheld device that will test the RNA of fish products to check whether you’re getting your money’s worth.
The scanner, that’s what is, is used for testing groupers, known more popularly as sea bass, one of those most mislabeled fish products. Since there’s a quota in catching this fish, the supply can’t satisfy the demand.
The combined imported and the local products allows the labeling of the 64 species of the fish as grouper, according to the rules set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It creates a lot of opportunity here for fraud.
“The demand for grouper in the U.S. is so strong that it cannot be met by the harvesting of domestic species alone. In 2012, over 4,000 metric tons of foreign grouper, worth $33.5 million, were imported into the U.S. This mass quantity of imported grouper creates opportunities for fraud, which can lead consumers to pay more for lesser valued seafood species and may allow importers to avoid paying tariffs,” said Robert Ulrich in a statement.
Ulrich, a College of Marine Science graduate, is the lead author of the paper. It can be found in a recently published issue of the journal Food Control
The handheld scanner will settle the issue of the fish’s real identity in seconds easily and without costing too much.
“Using the hand-held device, a complete field assay, potentially carried out at the point of purchase, requires fewer than 45 minutes for completion and can be performed entirely outside of the lab. Some past assay procedures could take hours, even days to identify samples,” said John Paul, Distinguished University Professor at the USF College of Marine Science and co-author of the paper.
A portable version is available for those who wants to have one and according to researchers they are as accurate in unmasking a “grouper” whether raw or cooked.
PureMolecular, LLC, a spin off company of South Florida, will market the GrouperChek device. Different versions of the device will be later available to check on the other kinds of fish species.
“Federal and State governments are behind the need to protect U.S. seafood consumers. A bill on seafood safety was recently introduced in the U.S. Congress and work on similar bills is in process in Maryland and Massachusetts. In addition, a multi-agency Presidential Task Force was established in 2014 and has made recommendations to the White House regarding the development of forensics technology for seafood identification,” said Paul.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a lot information concerning fish fraud. Consumers can watch at the agency’s fishwatch.gov website.
“When you purchase seafood, you expect that it will be what the label says it is. Unfortunately, studies and investigations are finding that this is not always the case—various types of “seafood fraud” are being committed along the seafood supply chain,” reads the NOAA site.