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Battling Fish Fraud With DNA Testing 63

itwbennett writes "High demand, high prices, and nearly identical cheaper alternatives is a recipe for fraud. Eel fraud, that is. This has led Japanese researchers to develop a method to cheaply and quickly batch-test DNA by taking small tissue samples from thousands of eels. 'If a non-local eel is found in a batch, more tests will be performed to find the guilty foreigner.'"
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Battling Fish Fraud With DNA Testing

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  • Not just Eel (Score:3, Informative)

    by halfEvilTech ( 1171369 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @02:50PM (#39454645)

    This seems to be a growing problem in both fish markets and sushi shops. Shops are trying to sell off one type of fish as another that looks and tastes similiar. Other issues come from labeling as wild caught vs farm raised.

    Take salmon for example. Wild caught will stay pink as it cooks where farm raised will not. But they look the same when raw.

    • Re:Not just Eel (Score:4, Insightful)

      by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @03:04PM (#39454837)
      Hmmm, if the bad guys sell a piece of a more common fish passing it off as a rarer (sometimes endangered) species, is it necessarily 100% wrong? Doesn't it decrease the price of the rarer fish, thus decreasing the drive of fishermen to hunt it? It's not like the people eating it would die from different taste. (But what do I know, being a man of simple tastes...)
      • by seifried ( 12921 )
        Yes it is wrong, it's called fraud. There may also be health concerns, e.g. allergies.
        • by izomiac ( 815208 )
          Generally, people with allergies avoid "fish", not "pacific bluefin tuna", and wouldn't try to eat atlantic bluefin tuna (conservation status of the two aside). It'd actually be rather dangerous to do the trials to determine exactly what is safe and what isn't.

          It being fraud is absolutely true. OTOH, personally I wouldn't care if I got "Salmon or similar" so long as it's tasty and safe to eat. Overfishing a specific species for no reason beyond marketing is stupid but profitable. OTOH, when pufferfis
          • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

            So fraud based upon elitist ego. "Look at me, I'm special I pay a lot of money to eat rare endanger fish because I can afford to do so, even though there is more plentiful fish that taste's much the same."

            So wanker's fraud, somehow it all seems rather appropriate ;D. So people feeding their ego instead of their stomach, hmm, what difference does it make, they can still ostentatiously spend large sums on 'elitist' food, after all it's not the food, it's egoistically spending an average families weekly foo

      • Re:Not just Eel (Score:4, Informative)

        by rtaylor ( 70602 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @03:34PM (#39455167) Homepage

        In Japan the opposite was happening just as frequently. The endangered accidentally caught fish was being sold as a commonly available fish.

        • In Japan the opposite was happening just as frequently. The endangered accidentally caught fish was being sold as a commonly available fish.

          No kidding. Every time I ordered sashimi over there it tasted like humpback whale.

      • I think it's a matter of wanting to know what you're eating. If I ask for Tilapia fillets, I expect to be given Tilapia fillets and not some other fish that looks and tastes like Tilapia. I'd bet people would be upset if Supermarkets put store brands on the shelf that looked just like the name brand products (including labels/product name) so that when you wanted to buy Jiffy Peanut Butter you got Store Brand X Peanut Butter instead. Yes, I know store brands are just as good and less money, but it should

      • by dmomo ( 256005 )

        No. Because it's not the fraud that saves those rare fish. It's a side affect of the fraud. Wrong is still wrong. Once you bring the virtue of side effects into the discussion, you distract from the point. If your point is to save those rarer fist, find a way to do it directly, instead of placing it at the end of a Rube Goldberg device.

    • Re:Not just Eel (Score:4, Informative)

      by Misanthrope ( 49269 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @03:05PM (#39454859)

      That's not true, the color comes from the same pigment astaxanthin. The amount in the feed determines the color and can be tailored by the farm. Admittedly farmed salmon is horrible and is a bit like raising lions for food...

      • Alight, I must have misread that somewhere. It has been a long day, but that still doesn't make it wrong to mis-label a product.

        Fraud is fraud.

    • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

      Wild caught will stay pink as it cooks where farm raised will not. But they look the same when raw.

      What's the difference between the two, aside from whether they were caught in the wild or raised on a farm? Salmon happens to be a type of sushi I enjoy very much.

      • by FunkDup ( 995643 )

        What's the difference between the two

        Farmed salmon are a bit tasteless from eating pellet feed for most of their lives and not getting enough exercise. Even when they are fed fishmeal they don't get the variety they normally would. They're fed high doses of antibiotics to counteract the problems of keeping them in batteries.

        They're bigger though, and cheaper (depending on where you live). And potentially less toxic if they're fed pellets.

      • Interestingly enough in japan they eat farm raised salmon more than wild caught. Why? Farm raised salmon can be eaten fresh without risk of parasites. Wild salmon needs to be frozen because of all the time spent in fresh water, it's at risk for contracting worms. A lot of sushi chefs still check their fish for worms the old fashioned way (by eye) but a lot of restaurants and chefs don't want to bother with the risk and just order farm raised salmon so they can serve it fresh every time.
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      I have cooked both wild caught and farm raised salmon. They both remain pink.

  • BJs had an article in their last ad thing about how they DNA test all of their fish to verify that its the right species, etc, etc. I assume it's similar to this.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      New headline: DNA Tested By BJs

      • by Anonymous Coward

        New headline: DNA Tested By BJs

        I think you've blown a seal.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @02:51PM (#39454667)

    "My hovercraft is full of eels."

    "DNA testing proves you're lying."

    (being led away in handcuffs) "It's a fair cop."

    • I see you found the guilty foreigner. :)

      Kind of funny language... the description could be taken as saying only foreigners would transport fraudulent fish. Oh, xenophobia, you are so hilarious.

      • by jdgeorge ( 18767 )

        I think it really implies that the fraudulent fish would be imported from outside of Japan. It's not xenophobia, either; it's concern about food safety, and false advertising.

        • the "foreigner" is a non-domestic eel. syas nothing about the importation source or who is doing it.
        • I'm well aware; it's just an amusing choice of words with potential awkward misinterpretations. (And the fraud-fish needn't be imported from an entire other country; it could just be anything foreign to a given local population. I imagine fishermen cheating a quota by stealing from another region, even along the same coast, might be cause for alarm.)
          • by jdgeorge ( 18767 )

            That's true. I guess my point is that it's not just a funny choice of words. There are nearby foreign sources of misrepresented or possibly illegal fish. Plus, the connotation of involving an Illegal Alien person is probably not really an accident.

  • by Anne_Nonymous ( 313852 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @02:52PM (#39454673) Homepage Journal

    Seems like an eel-conceived idea to me.

  • In Development: A fish-testing card (think those date rape coasters) that will tell you if your fish is legit. YAY!
  • Dumb Consumers? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crow ( 16139 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @03:11PM (#39454915) Homepage Journal

    This sounds a lot like fraud in the wine business, where a relatively cheap wine is relabeled as an expensive wine.

    Both in the fish market, and in the wine market, taste tests show that consumers generally can't tell the difference. If consumers were smart, they would have chosen the cheaper product in the first place. However, consumers are often more concerned about the image of the product than the product itself, so they buy the effectively identical more expensive product.

    Yes, the fraud is wrong, but I can't say I feel that horrible about it, as the consumer is still effectively getting what they pay for--something expensive that tastes just like something cheap. Perhaps the resources would be better spent worrying about crimes with real victims.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by bws111 ( 1216812 )

      No, they are not getting what they paid for. There are more considerations other than just taste. Are the health properties of the food the same? Are the environmental impacts of the fishing methods the same? Are the food safety aspects the same? Who is getting the money (and jobs) - local people or foreigners?

      • IN this particular case, it's very likely the fraudulent fish is the one that's best for the environment :/

    • by Guppy ( 12314 )

      Both in the fish market, and in the wine market, taste tests show that consumers generally can't tell the difference. If consumers were smart, they would have chosen the cheaper product in the first place.

      And not only would they have saved money, they might have gotten less mercury as well. More expensive species of fish tend to be on higher trophic levels.

    • by cusco ( 717999 )
      Amusingly enough, about the only wines that consumers can consistently tell are definitely better or worse are the homemade wines. I've had two different wine merchants tell me essentially the same thing, neither of whom made their own wines. One told me that my blackberry wine was the best wine that he had ever had (admittedly he was fairly schnockered at the time, but he took the time to look me up later when he was sober). Essentially the almost-free consistently beats the expensive. Tickles my funny
      • I dunno.... for myself, I prefer the wines made from scuppernog grapes. That has to do with the taste of the grape, as well. Yes, it's a cheap wine. But I could eat the grapes all day long. Oh, and I like the taste of red wines much better than white. I would absolutely hate it if I ordered a red, and they handed me a white, telling me it was red.
      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        I can't really speak to wine but I can talk a little about bread (a side hobby of mine on occasion). It isn't that hard to make bread in your home that is substantially better than just about anything you'll find in a marketplace without travelling a fair bit. Now, you won't get it just by dumping flour in a bread machine, but you can automate quite a bit of it (most of the difference comes from extended fermentation at the right spots in the process, or cold fermentation).

        The reason that you can do so mu

    • That's why I only drink Boone's Farm with my store brand fish sticks.
  • If the cheaper version is nearly identical then what warrants the high price to begin with?
  • "That's a haddock you are eating sir"

    "I know my fish! It's a cod, not a haddock!"

    "No sir I assure you it's a haddock"

    "Well, I'm not convinced. Have my plate taken back the kitchen. I want it DNA tested...."

  • The price of eel has gone up drastically in the past 18 months (from 200$ a case to almost 400$) I'm a sushi chef at a restaurant in seattle so for once slashdot has a story relevant to my work (somewhat.) While I'm sure this testing has contributed to the rise in price the real reason behind this is the unsustainability of current farm raising methods (eg, dig a hole in the ground, throw the fry in, raise them, dig another hole etc) it just keeps getting more expensive to find new land to dig new holes t
    • Wow I don't know wat happened but I posted that from my mobile and all the line breaks were removed somehow *sigh* now I just look stupid.

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham