InstantLabs throws the net over seafood mislabelling

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

InstantLabs says the SpeciesID tests provide DNA verification in less than two hours
InstantLabs says the SpeciesID tests provide DNA verification in less than two hours

Related tags Salmon Us

InstantLabs has expanded its line of DNA tests for seafood to tackle the issue of fish fraud.

The SpeciesID product line now includes Atlantic and Coho salmon and builds on current offerings including Atlantic Blue Crab, pork and horse meat.

InstantID test kits are the first of four salmon assays planned for release during 2015.

InstantLabs will launch the test for Chinook and Sockeye salmon later this year.

The assays were created in partnership with the University of Guelph, Canada.

Test kit priority

Steven Guterman, chief executive officer of InstantLabs, said the order of the test kits was chosen because of two reasons.

“One is what we found when we spoke to people in the industry and government inspectors and got the wishlist of tests they care about and the understanding of why," ​he told FoodQualityNews.

“Then from that list we figured out which ones we had more information on. With blue crab we thought it would be easier than it was, you need to spend time gathering a broad set of initial samples with enough bio-diversity to launch the check.”

The firm said the Atlantic Blue Crab DNA verification test announced in November last year​ is ready for the start of this season, which starts in the springtime, after delays meant they missed the end of last season.

Guterman said the test gives an answer within two hours.

“At the moment people take a sample and send it out for sequencing, it is a long and slow process and it is a costly endeavour. So the speed of InstantID makes it compelling and it is more cost effective," ​he said.

“There are studies out there [such as Oceania’s 2013 report​] showing the scale of the issue but there are also those who think it is not a problem.

“There has not been an easy and fast way of testing before so we don’t know precisely how big the problem is but it is not insignificant and it is almost always economically motivated.”

Substitution also has an impact on the paper trial of fish, said Guterman.

“You think you are buying fish A from a fish farm or ocean but substitution from a different location adds the worry about toxins that might be present and it opens up the supply chain to fish not grown or farmed in the right way.”

Further releases in 2015

The manufacturer of the Hunter system expects to release kits for snapper, catfish, grouper, and tilapia.

InstantLabs’ Hunter Real-Time PCR instrument is a portable system designed for use at points-of-need to detect and analyze food samples by targeting DNA.

Dr Robert Hanner, associate professor at the Center of Biodiversity Genomics, has directed the University of Guelph’s research.

"This collaboration has been essential in commercializing DNA-based food authentication tests for the seafood industry.

“This technology will help safeguard against existing supply chain vulnerabilities, protecting both businesses and consumers from food fraud.”

Meanwhile, the Presidential Task Force on Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud, released an action plan at the Seafood Expo in Boston last week​.

Bruce Andrews, US deputy secretary of commerce, said steps taken in environmental stewardship are paying off.

“However, our nation's fisheries remain threatened by illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and seafood fraud, which negatively affects our markets.  

“The Task Force’s new strategic plan will aggressively implement recommendations to guarantee that US fishing fleets remain competitive in the global economy.” ​ 

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), US fishermen landed 9.9 billion pounds of fish and shellfish worth $5.5bn in 2013.  

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