High School Students Bust Restaurants And Grocery Stores For Selling Mislabeled Fish

Two high school students decided to see if New Yorkers were really getting what they paid for when they ordered expensive fish. Guess what? Sometimes, they weren’t.

From the New York Times:

They hit 4 restaurants and 10 grocery stores in Manhattan. Once the samples were home, whether in doggie bags or shopping bags, they cut away a small piece and preserved it in alcohol. They sent those off to the University of Guelph in Ontario, where the Barcode of Life Database project began. A graduate student there, Eugene Wong, works on the Fish Barcode of Life (dubbed, inevitably, Fish-BOL) and agreed to do the genetic analysis. He compared the teenagers’ samples with the global library of 30,562 bar codes representing nearly 5,500 fish species. (Commercial labs will also perform the analysis for a fee.)

Three hundred dollars’ worth of meals later, the young researchers had their data back from Guelph: 2 of the 4 restaurants and 6 of the 10 grocery stores had sold mislabeled fish.

This isn’t really surprising, considering that the Chicago Sun-Times did essentially the same thing and found that none of their 14 samples of “red snapper” were actually “red snapper.”

One fish monger who passed the DNA test was glad that the kids (with the help of one of the girl’s father, who is a scientist) did the testing:

John Leonard, the owner [of Leonards’ Seafood and Prime Meats on Third Avenue], said he was not surprised to find that his products passed the bar code test. “We go down and pick the fish out ourselves,” he said. “We know what we’re doing.” As for the technology, Mr. Leonard said, “it’s good for the public,” since “it would probably keep restaurateurs and owners of markets more on their toes.”

Fish Tale Has DNA Hook: Students Find Bad Labels [NYT](Thanks, Jon!)