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Scientists at the George Washington University used a powerful genetic technique to test seafood dinners sold in six District restaurants and found 33 percent had been mislabeled—although in most cases with species that are either closely related or considered acceptable alternatives for menu listing.
Previous studies in other cities have shown widespread seafood substitution in which consumers are sold a completely different fish or sushi from the one listed. Those studies have indicated that seafood may be mislabeled as often as 26 to 87 percent of the time.
Cases - Diner - Tuna - Species - Fish
And in egregious cases, an unsuspecting diner is sold an expensive Tuna that is actually a completely different species of fish, often one that is much cheaper or on the endangered species list, says Keith Crandall, PhD, director of the Computational Biology Institute at George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) and leader of the new study , which was published today in PeerJ.
Crandall and his team wondered if DC diners were getting what was listed on the menu. To find out, his team used DNA barcoding to test 12 seafood samples purchased in six restaurants and found that all in all they were doing a pretty good job.
Diners - Tuna - Type - Tuna - Crandall
"Diners that ordered tuna got tuna—although maybe a slightly different type of tuna," says Crandall. "We didn't see the kind of outright seafood fraud that has been reported in other cities."
For this study, Crandall recruited GW graduate student David Stern to embark on a dream assignment. Stern and his wife visited six popular DC eateries and ordered seafood dinners that caught their fancy. Not only did the two get to dine out at restaurants offering up such tasty fare like Crusted Albacore Tuna or Pesto Chilean Sea bass but Crandall instructed them to bring back the bills—he'd pick up the tab.
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