Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Fish Story

Genetic identification may sort honest from fishy catches

You only thought you were eating flounder!

Tons of catfish from China pile up in Los Angeles warehouses until a Gainesville food-testing laboratory decides what they are.

A New York DNA lab that mainly analyzes research mice is now testing restaurant fish for newspaper and television stations all over the country. About 60 percent of the samples turn out to be fakes.

A Canadian university is building a genetic database of every animal species on earth. Eventually, restaurant diners might insert a sliver of today's "fresh catch" into a handheld device that can tell if it's grouper or $2-a-pound catfish.

These days, the seafood business has moved well beyond fried vs. broiled. Fortunes can rise or fall on proper identification of what people are eating.

Genetic testing, which zeros in on a minute strip of DNA, has become the gold standard for separating honesty and deception.

"It's the most important thing to come along in a long time," said Bob Jones, executive director of the Southeastern Fisheries Association, a trade group long frustrated by seafood substitution.

Until recently, a cooked piece of fish, slathered in sauce, could not be traced. Genetic testing can lift the veil, Jones said.

"It tells the public that there is a problem beyond anyone's belief."

Sneaking in catfish

For years, buffet lines and Sunday socials have exploited the inexpensive virtues of Southern catfish.


At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not enough that we have to put up w/their carp and talapia?

At 5:36 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

They used to pass off shark meat as scallops. I'm sure in some places they still do.

At 5:40 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

Ancient Hawaiians loved carp and talapia.

At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what kinds, but the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks also raised fish...

(Plato, "Statesman")

STRANGER: Have you ever heard, as you very likely may--for I do not suppose that you ever actually visited them--of the preserves of fishes in the Nile, and in the ponds of the Great King; or you may have seen similar preserves in wells at home?

YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes, to be sure, I have seen them, and I have often heard the others described.

STRANGER: And you may have heard also, and may have been assured by report, although you have not travelled in those regions, of nurseries of geese and cranes in the plains of Thessaly?


STRANGER: I asked you, because here is a new division of the management of herds, into the management of land and of water herds.

At 1:01 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

I'm not surprised by anything the Egyptians accomplished. Both they and ancient Babylon were the first to use pi.

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Always On Watch Two said...

I like catfish, but I prefer to know that the fish I've ordered truly is what it purports to be.

Years ago, I had some real scallops in San Francisco. What a delicious difference from the shark meat I'd been served in many upscale restaurants here in the D.C. area!

At 11:31 AM, Blogger American Crusader said...

Supposedly, you can tell the difference between shark meat and scallops by the striations in the meat.
We buy scallops from a reputable fresh seafood dealer, so I'm fairly certain we haven't been swindled.

At 7:28 AM, Blogger pela68 said...

Actually I think catfish is rather tasty. It is ugly as a James Cameron nightmare; but still. When presented at a plate with freshly plucked potatoes (preferably Lapland almond potatoes) and a well- made sauce, then (said in the voice of Homer Simpson) Mmmmmm- catfish!


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