How Can Consumers Know If Their Seafood Is Accurately Labeled?

Consumers are growing increasingly concerned about the food they eat, and more and more people are paying attention to food labels when making their buying decisions. However, recent food labeling scandals have left a bitter taste in many people’s mouths.

For example, a scandal erupted in 2013 when it was discovered that some burgers labeled as beef were really made of horsemeat in Europe. Incorrect labeling is not only deceitful; it could cause people to inadvertently violate moral or religious values or even harm their health. How can people know for sure what they are getting?

One of the more widespread examples of food fraud right now is mislabeled seafood. The U.S., EU, and Japan have recently implemented new traceability components in import regulations. However, a recent analysis showed that around 30 percent on average of the world’s seafood is mislabeled. This is particularly prevalent in restaurants, where the food is served prepared and consumers are unlikely to notice a cheaper fish being substituted in place of a more expensive one that is aesthetically similar.

DNA Testing Takes The Mystery Out Of The Process

One solution is the Marine Stewardship Council’s Chain of Custody Standard, which ensures people that the seafood they are buying is legally sourced and sustainable, has not been mixed with other seafood, and has been traced from the ocean to the plate. Companies that use this certification are subjected to regular audits, and the procedure is tightly controlled.

DNA testing is also being used for seafood traceability as it can provide unquestionable verification of even the most unidentifiable seafood product regardless of whether it is in fillet form, processed, frozen or canned. In some cases, it can even identify in which part of the world the species was caught.

A DNA testing program on hundreds of seafood products carrying the MSC certification found that the incidence of mislabeling was less than 1 percent. Thanks to initiatives like this, people can be sure they are getting exactly what they want – and perhaps more importantly, avoiding the foods they do not wish to consume.