Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Which Fish Is Which?

About 30 percent of fish sold at markets or restaurants aren't what their labels say they are, but a new labeling approach may help limit that, according to New Scientist.

Mislabeling of fish has been an issue for years — in 2011, the Boston Globe found that 87 of 183 fish samples it tested were mislabeled, with, for instance, flounder being sold as the more expensive Vietnamese catfish. In addition to passing off one fish as another to increase prices, mislabeled fish could also make it more difficult to track endangered fish. DNA barcoding has been floated as a means of keeping which fish is which straight.

As New Scientist reports, researchers from the Marine Stewardship Council have found that fish bearing its sustainability mark are generally labeled properly. As MSC's Francis Neat and his colleagues report in Current Biology, they used DNA barcoding to determine the species identity of 1,402 fish with an MSC mark. They say that to get that certification, the distributors, processors, and retailers of those fish have to have a documented trace-back system. They report that only 1 percent of fish with their certification were mislabeled and that those that were marked incorrectly were typically similar white fish like cod and hake.