In February 2013, Oceana, the largest international ocean conservation and advocacy organization, published a study which reported that one-third of 1,215 seafood samples analyzed over a two-year period were mislabelled according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines. Species sold as snapper and tuna had the highest mislabeling rates with only seven of the 120 samples of "red snapper" purchased being true red snapper while the other 113 samples were another (and not surprisingly) lower value fish. Beyond cheating consumers, seafood fraud and species substitutions put public health at risk ( "In South Florida, King mackerel, a fish on the FDA's DO NOT EAT list for pregnant women and other at risk groups due to high mercury, was sold as the far less innocuous grouper" – Forbes, February 21, 2013) and allow illegally caught fish to be laundered into the seafood trade.
Organic Ocean determined that we could take seafood traceability to the highest level by becoming the first seafood supplier in the world to provide DNA certification of authenticity to our products. Utilizing the services of Tru-ID, a leading DNA-based authenticity certification organization, samples of Organic Ocean products are routinely and randomly selected for species verification testing. With access to an extensive library of taxonomically verified fish species, Tru-ID has developed a species authentication program based on DNA barcoding that enables Tru-ID to confirm identifications of crustaceans, shellfish and finfish.
Organic Ocean and Tru-ID have extended the DNA authentication and Tru-ID certification of Organic Ocean products to the development of a tamper-proof reporting system designed to share ALL audit data with Organic Ocean's customers. To achieve this, the DNA authentication report is hosted on the Tru-ID web site and linked to the Organic Ocean web site. This allows a mirror image of the report to be displayed on the Organic Ocean web site while eliminating any potential for or risk of modification of the audit results. This project represents a roadmap to enhance and ensure the integrity of the seafood traceability process.
Figure 1. Schematic of data flow to the web site interface enabling direct consumer access to product/species verification information.