Handheld Sensor Identifies Seafood Fraud

Written by on February 20, 2015 in Fish, Technology

Inventions That Will Save Marine Life: QuadPyre RT-NASBA

University of South Florida (USF) scientists have developed a handheld sensor that can detect seafood fraud.

Goliath grouper. Photo credit: NOAA/FKNMS.Seafood fraud, a term that covers everything from mislabeling species to lying about the origin of the fish, is rampant in the United States (and fairly common elsewhere, as well). About 90 percent of the seafood eaten by Americans is imported and it is estimated that up to 30 percent of that seafood is fraudulently mislabeled, which is bad for the environment, our health, and our wallets.

The new device, the QuadPyre RT-NASBA (real-time nucleic acid sequence-based amplification), is an inexpensive way to test for seafood fraud on the go. It requires “fewer than 45 minutes for completion and can be performed entirely outside of the lab,” co-author and biological oceanographer John Paul, Distinguished University Professor at the USF College of Marine Science explained in a news release.

The device is an improvement on previously developed lab-based models that could take hours to days to identify samples. Using the handheld version, testing will take less time and can be performed at sea, on the dock, or even in restaurants. Scientists believe the QuadPrye version is even capable of detecting seafood substitution of cooked fish, even when the sample is masked by breading or sauces.

It was developed as method for detecting fraud involving grouper, a frequently mislabeled species. Grouper is the third most economically valuable seafood product in Florida, but detecting fraud can be difficult because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “allows 64 species to be labeled as ‘grouper’”.

Seared Black Grouper with a Warm Artichoke and Zucchini Salad. Photo courtesy of Victoria Allman.

Seared Black Grouper with a Warm Artichoke and Zucchini Salad. Photo courtesy of Victoria Allman.

“The demand for grouper in the U.S. is so strong that it cannot be met by the harvesting of domestic species alone,” lead author Robert Ulrich said. “In 2012, over 4,000 metric tons of foreign grouper, worth $33.5 million, were imported into the U.S. This mass quantity of imported grouper creates opportunities for fraud, which can lead consumers to pay more for lesser valued seafood species and may allow importers to avoid paying tariffs.”
The scientists who developed the QuadPrye hope that it will help seafood purchases better combat seafood fraud.

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Copyright © 2015 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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