Can you tell whether seafood is correctly labeled as wild or farm raised—or even real fish—at the grocery store? This month, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced that its researchers have developed reference materials to help a number of stakeholders assess the authenticity of seafood and verify where fish is caught or produced.
To develop the reference materials, researchers collaborated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to study salmon and shrimp, which are among the top seafoods consumed in the U.S. The scientists focused on wild-caught and farm-raised (aquacultured) versions of shrimp and coho salmon, a species found in the Pacific Ocean.
As wild-caught fish is more expensive than aquacultured salmon and shrimp, producers who swap or mislabel the fish can earn higher profits at a lower cost—and potentially scam customers along the way. Ultimately, the reference materials can help the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agencies assess whether imported salmon and shrimp are authentic. What’s more, they can also be used for food safety and detecting allergens, as well as testing for metals or other contaminants.
“There was interest expressed by stakeholders, including customs officials, about the authenticity of seafood products. When we receive imported goods, how do we know they are what they claim to be?” said NIST biologist Debra Ellisor.
Scientists looked at fatty acid profiles of salmon to inform their research, as aquacultured salmon reference materials have twice the amount of omega-3 fatty acids compared to wild-caught. For assessing the shrimp, researchers needed to use genetic analysis methods, because wild-caught shrimp species that are found in the U.S. market or industry are not typically found in the U.S. aquaculture market. [Read more about the research details here.]
NIST reports that the reference materials come with a certificate of analysis, which contains genetic information on the shrimp and salmon.
“If a food processing place can use the reference material to say this is the species that it is, then consumers can have more confidence. You now know when you go to a store, you can have full faith the seafood product is the species it says it is and that the labels are true,” said NIST chemist Benjamin Place.
Standards at the Table to Support Food Safety and Consumers
Did you know that there are a number of standards that also support food safety and better cooking experiences, from the table to food disposal?
For appliances that are up to par for pasta making, ASTM International’s ASTM F1784-97(2020), Standard Test Method for Performance of a Pasta Cooker, covers the energy consumption and cooking performance of floor-model and countertop pasta cookers. The food service operator can use this evaluation to select a pasta cooker and understand its energy consumption and production capacity.
A UL Standards & Engagement standard, UL 1026, Standard For Electric Household Cooking And Food Serving Appliances, supports safety for electric appliances like bread machines and air fryers, whereas American Society of Sanitary Engineering standard ASSE 1008-2020, Performance Requirements For Plumbing Aspects Of Residential Food Waste Disposer Units, provides guidance for in-sink garbage disposals and other units for food waste.
The ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB), a wholly owned subsidiary of ANSI, offers a number of accreditation programs related to food safety. These programs are based on international standards and industry-developed requirements and schemes that have a common goal of providing confidence in the quality and safety of food throughout the supply chain.
As an example, ANAB is recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an accreditation body under the Food Safety Modernization Act, for which ISO/IEC 17021-1, Conformity assessment — Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems — Part 1: Requirements, and/or ISO/IEC 17065 are base requirements. In connection with the FDA – FSMA – Foreign Supplier Verification Programs, ANAB has an accreditation program accreditation to FDA - FSMA (Final Rule) – Foreign Supplier Verification Programs. ANAB is also the accrediting organization for the Conference for Food Protection (CFP) Standards for accreditation of Food Protection Manager Certification Programs. ANAB-CFP accreditation indicates that the certification organization has been evaluated by a third-party and meets or exceeds all of the conference-established standards.Cheers to research and standards that support safer food!