Can Science Fairs Help?

Early in my career as a food scientist I would volunteer to be a judge at the local science fair. I was always amazed at the advanced level of science being achieved by the high school students. I dont recall though any projects where students investigated species substitution in the marketplace, but DNA testing of seafood seems to have captured the interest of young scientists. Now that interest has moved to the DC area.

The DC NBC news affiliate ran a story this week reporting on the results of a school project utilizing DNA analysis to identify fish species. Three high school students sampled various fish from DC wholesale fish markets and compared the results from the Smithsonians Barcode of Life DNA analysis to the labels on the fish. Out of the 49 samples, the students found that 11 were mislabeled. The students found Atlantic salmon being sold as King salmon, perch being sold as arctic char, Atlantic halibut being sold as Pacific halibut to name a few.

Unfortunately its become a sure thing that these types of investigations will find misidentified species. Fraud or not, consumers are misled. Maybe FDA should sub-contract with our high schools to help crack-down on species substitution.