DNA barcoding will be used to identify fish species and ensure food safety. (Photo: NFRDI Genetic Fingerprinting Laboratory/FIS)
Govt adopts DNA barcoding measures for fish
Wednesday, April 04, 2012, 02:30 (GMT + 9)
The National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI) can now identify fish species through DNA barcoding – a method critical in food safety and for tracing the origin of fishery products to avoid mislabelling.
Avoiding mislabelling is important because consumers are often misled and fooled into paying more than the actual value of the goods they are buying, according to NFRDI’s Benedict Maralit and five co-authors in their entry at the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR)-National Research Symposium (NRS).
“DNA barcoding can differentiate between closely related species that are hard to tell apart, especially large fish specimens that are difficult to bring back from the field. It can identify products like fish fillets so you know if the grouper you ordered in a restaurant is really a grouper,” said Dr Mudjekeewis Santos, senior author of the NFRDI Genetic Fingerprinting Laboratory (GFL), PNA reports.
Their study won a silver award at the 2011 BAR-NRS.
“Food safety has already become a necessity for our fishery industry to survive in the international market. It is also important in ensuring that what we import is safe to eat,” said BAR director Nicomedes Eleazar.
Certain importing countries have even started requiring traceability. The European Union (EU) requests appropriate species traceability and proper labelling.
DNA barcoding is also necessary to encourage the industry to comply with labelling provisions of the Consumer Act or Republic Act (RA) 7394 and the Fisheries Code of the Philippines, RA 8550.
Further, DNA barcoding can help fishery managers and researchers legally verify fish caught as bycatch and species under regulation, which allows for the protection of endangered species and for sustaining fish population.
NFRDI-GFL has used DNA barcoding to find that six fishery products, some of which are priced expensively in restaurants, have been mislabelled. The products are fresh tawilis sardines, bluefin tuna slices, tuna sashimi and fillets, whole and headless shrimp products, cream dory slices and gindara steaks.
“It is important to identify the correct species as there is, for example, a gindara species that is not safe to eat. Tuna may also be identified commercially as the more expensive blue fin tuna when in fact it’s just a yellow fin tuna,” Maralit said.
The NFRDI study found out that the sardinella tawilis species sold in identified supermarkets is really S. fimbriata.
By Natalia Real