Molecular Forensics Expose Slimy Side of Sushi Industry (Slate)

illegal sushi fishingIf you think you are eating tuna sushi, you probably are. If you’ve ordered salmon, though, you’re most likely eating steelhead trout. “Shrimp is shrimp and crab is crab, unless it’s pollock. And don’t trust the white fish. That could be anything: tilapia, something else, who knows,” Slate warns.

People like Standford University marine biologist Steve Palumbi are using molecular forensics to detect imposters in the seafood world. Palumbi has sequenced DNA from fish served in Japanese restaurants to reveal that the so-called legal minke whale on the plate was actually meat from protected species, including baleen whales, such as fin and humpback whales, and dolphins and porpoises.

Other exposes by conservationists and newspapers have shown that nearly 40 percent of fish in New York restaurants are mislabeled, with similar problems in Los Angeles and Boston, Slate reports.


  1. The Fishing Dude says:

    Fresh, correctly labeled seafood is a thing of the past!

    Right now there is something called Sushi, that looks something like Sushi in my neighborhood grocery store! at the checkout grab-display! It’s prominently marked as being ‘Food Stamp Eligible’! Right! there’s even a gang of somewhat sushi-looking guys with hats preparing the stuff! It may or may not be anything like what’s advertised! it’s all driven by some rule that allows it to be paid for by the Food Assistance Program .. Food Stamps!

    Who knows what the heck it is?! sure thing it is neither so fresh or so healthy as is advertised. But who cares as long as it is good business?!

  2. Damon Gannon says:

    Recently, the issue of seafood fraud has garnered much attention from fisheries scientists, environmentalists, and the press. Mislabeling of seafood can cause problems regarding food safety, species conservation, and consumer fraud. The rate of misrepresenting seafood appears to vary regionally. In last year’s Marine Conservation Biology Class (Bio274/ES274) Bowdoin students used a molecular genetic technique called DNA barcoding to investigate seafood fraud in Maine. I’m happy to report that of the 30 items tested, only one was mislabeled: a piece of sushi marked as “salmon” that was actually rainbow (steelhead) trout.

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