Thanks to a new DNA technology that’s coming soon, you will be assured the fish you are served in your favorite restaurant is the real thing. DNA barcoding, according to an Associated Press report, is used to prevent mislabeling of seafood.
That’s good news for the Louisiana Restaurant Association. Although the association is aware of efforts to use DNA to identify species of fish, the technology doesn’t have a direct link to restaurants in Louisiana. But the Louisiana Restaurant Association always wants to set that higher standard.
“Not only do we promote the use of Louisiana seafood, we also promote truth in menu,” said Erica Papillion, director of communications for the association.
In October 2011, the Food and Drug Administration officially approved DNA barcoding in the hopes of preventing mislabeling U.S. produced seafood, as well as seafood imported from around the world.
David Schindel, executive secretary of the Consortium for the Barcode of Life, told the Associated Press that he is in discussion with seafood suppliers and the restaurant industry to utilize the technology as a means of certifying the authenticity of different species of fish. Currently, the Barcode of Life database includes more than 167,000 species.
The DNA barcoding of fish will reduce the mislabeling of seafood and help restaurants ensure customers that the fish they ordered is indeed the fish they are eating. The Consortium for the Barcode of Life believes barcoding offers a simple, rapid and inexpensive means of identifying fish. The ultimate goal of the group is to barcode all fish species.
The process works much like you would think –– by using DNA to identify a species using the database. When the technology is used to test the seafood used in restaurants, not every piece will be tested. With each shipment of seafood that’s ordered, representative samples will be selected for testing.
“When they (restaurants) sell something that’s really expensive, they want the consumer to believe that they are getting what they are paying for,” Schindel told the Associated Press. “We are going to start seeing a self-regulating movement by the high-end trade embracing barcoding as a mark of quality.”
In the meantime, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is about to launch a new program to ensure quality certification and authenticity of Louisiana seafood. Jon Bell, extension professor in the Department of Food Science in the LSU AgCenter, said the new program should be up and running by spring 2012. The program will establish that the seafood is harvested from Louisiana or Gulf waters and landed and processed in Louisiana.
“It sounds simple,” he said, “but there are a lot of details to work out. Participation will be voluntary, and the program will certify that current state and federal requirements are met. All participants must be licensed by the state of Louisiana, and these participating fishers, dealers, and processors will be linked by trip tickets and other product documentation. This documentation and traceability will assure that the product is wild Louisiana seafood.”
Although the program won’t initially utilize DNA technology, there is interest in incorporating it into the program, Bell added.
Once this authenticity program is in place, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will work with the state’s seafood industry to develop a more sophisticated premium product certification program.
A future step by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will include using DNA to identify species of Louisiana seafood. A DNA identification project is in the early stages of development, focusing on Gulf shrimp, which is the largest species by volume and value to the state. Like all species, Louisiana Gulf shrimp species have their own unique DNA.