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MSC's latest round of DNA testing finds 1% mislabeling rate with cod the culprit
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [seafoodnews.com ] March 19, 2013 -- The Marine Stewardship Council has released the latest results of its DNA testing program that the organization says validates the organization's Chain of Custody certification process.

According the MSC, in the most extensive testing of its labelled products carried out to date – of the 381 samples taken from retail packed products, fresh fish counters, and catering restaurants in 14 different markets -  the MSC found that the overall mislabelling rate for MSC certified products was 1 percent, or just three mislabelled samples.

“The MSC has used DNA testing since 2009 as one part of its strategy to monitor the effectiveness of its Chain of Custody standard for seafood traceability in controlling the processing, packing, labelling and movement of MSC certified seafood around the world," said David Agnew, MSC director of standards.  "Today’s results show that our program provides a high level of integrity and assurance that MSC labelled products are traceable to certified fisheries, and that customers are not being misled.”

The MSC said two of the three mislabelled samples were from a single supplier, and found to be Atlantic cod, labelled as Pacific cod. This supply chain has now been investigated and the fish found to be from an MSC certified Atlantic cod fishery.  So, although mislabelling has occurred, the substitution was of one certified species by another the MSC concluded. The third sample was Atlantic cod which, potentially, originated from a catch area not covered by an MSC certified fishery. This supply chain is still under investigation.

The DNA testing carried out in 2012 used a combination of tests to assess whether a product labelled as a certain species, for example, walleye pollock or hake, is in fact that species.  While such species-level tests cannot distinguish between MSC and non-MSC certified samples of the same species, they can validate that MSC-labelled products are correctly identified by species. This kind of testing is particularly useful for species where it has been shown there is a high rate of substitution, such as many whitefish products.

Where relevant and possible, the testing also included population-level tests capable of linking a sample of fish to a specific geographical location or catch area. This latter test is a particularly powerful tool, capable of detecting a case where a product labelled as an MSC certified stock of a particular species, such as Atlantic cod, does not originate in a catch area covered by an MSC certified fishery.

“We’ve kept a deliberately strong strategic focus on developing DNA tests for species or populations that are considered higher risk for substitution or mislabelling.  These results should therefore be considered an upper level estimate for the overall rate of mislabelling across the full range of MSC certified products in the market today. This compares very favourably with the small control group of non-MSC certified products that we also tested, and with recent industry reports that indicate high rates of mislabelling across different sectors," said Chelsea Reinhardt, head of the MSC supply chain program.

This article was originally published on Seafood.com news, a subscription site, and has been reprinted with permission. 


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