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Seafood mislabeling rate less than 1 percent for products with MSC label

Staff Writer |
DNA barcoding of more than 1400 Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) labelled products has shown that less than 1% were mislabelled, compared with a reported average global seafood mislabelling rate of 30 percent.

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These results published in the journal Current Biology suggests that the MSC's ecolabelling and Chain of Custody program is an effective deterrent for systematic and deliberate species substitution and fraud.

The MSC is a global not-for-profit that sets a benchmark for sustainable fishing and traceable supply chains.

If fisheries and supply chain companies get certified, they can use the MSC's blue label on products in store, on fresh fish counters and on restaurant menus.

DNA methods have been widely used to detect species mislabelling and a recent meta-analysis of 4500 seafood product tests from 51 peer-reviewed publications found an average of 30 percent were not the species stated on the label or menu.

In the present study, the largest and most comprehensive assessment of MSC-labelled products, the MSC worked with laboratories of TRACE Wildlife Forensics Network and Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) to employ DNA barcoding to identify the species in 1402 MSC-certified fish products from 18 countries.

They found that 1389 were labelled correctly and thirteen were not. This represents a total rate of less than 1% (0.92) species mislabelling in contrast to the global average of 30%.

Mislabelled products were found in fresh and frozen pre-packed products and in restaurants, mainly in western Europe, with one case in the USA. All cases of mislabelling were identified in whitefish (cods, hakes, hoki) and flatfish products.


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