Do you really know what kind of fish is on your plate? Two people in Chicago in 2007 thought they were eating monkfish when actually what they got was deadly puffer fish, mislabeled because it hadn’t been properly identified. The FDA would like that not to happen again, and they’ve now tasked a couple of researchers from the California Academy of Sciences and the Smithsonian to go to the Philippines and start DNA-testing every fish species they can find.
Seventy percent of the fish we eat in the U.S. comes from overseas, and nowhere is there more diversity than in the fish markets of the Philippines, and as ABC’s San Francisco affiliate reports, the team has already photographed and sequenced the DNA of 400 species on a recent trip there. That just leaves about 29,600 species left to go.
The puffer-fish incident is one particularly scary argument for spot-checking fish coming into the country based on a DNA database, because identifying fish becomes especially hard once it’s been cut up. Though this database won’t be complete for quite a while, the FDA hopes to start some limited spot-checking as early as next year.
But as Kent Carpenter, a research fellow with the CA Academy of Sciences says, they’ve got a pretty daunting and messy task roaming through these fish markets, picking up one species at a time. “It’s a lot of fish, a lot of odor, and a lot of slime.”