Something's Fishy About Store-Bought Red Snapper

Most supermarket 'snapper' is other species, DNA tests reveal

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TUESDAY, July 20, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Think you got a good deal on that red snapper at the supermarket?

Chances are, you bought some fishy fish, according to graduate students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).

While taking a course on how to extract and sequence DNA, the students discovered that more than 75 percent of fish tested and sold as red snapper in eight states actually were other species.

"Red snapper is the most sought-after snapper species and has the highest prices, and many people, including me, believe it tastes best," said Dr. Peter B. Marko, a UNC assistant professor of marine sciences. "Mislabeling to this extent not only defrauds consumers, but also risks adversely affecting estimates of stock size for this species if it influences the reporting of catch data used in fisheries management."

The team conducted molecular analyses of 22 fish bought from nine vendors in Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin. They found that 17 of the fish sold as red snapper -- some 77 percent -- were actually other species.

The students were surprised to find that more than half the DNA sequences came either from fish from other regions of the world or from rare species about which little is known.

A report on the group's research appears in the July 15 issue of Nature.

More information

Scientific Testimony has more about DNA testing.

SOURCES: University of North Carolina, news release, July 14, 2004

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