U.S. President Barack Obama’s recently announced initiatives to increase seafood traceability to prevent fraud and illegally caught fish from entering the marketplace — along with likely Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of genetically engineered salmon — is spurring demand for private traceability programs.

While President Obama’s initiative directs federal agencies to develop a comprehensive end-to-end traceability requirement that will create a chain of custody from boat to plate, some private companies are already offering or are expanding their seafood traceability services.

For example, California, U.S.-based Frequentz is expanding its IRIS food traceability program to include seafood. The seafood traceability solution is “event-driven” and provides retailers, wholesalers and others with chain of custody from boat to plate along with a mobile authentication application.

Frequentz is already piloting the seafood traceability program with Metro Group, one of Europe’s largest retailers, and plans to roll out the program in the United States this year.

“In less than a minute, our solution creates a regulatory identifier compliant with GS1 standards using a simple interface,” said Michael Lucas, chairman and founder of Frequentz.

However, there are other U.S.-based traceability and testing programs that will likely become more popular after the publicity of the president’s initiatives, announced at the global “Our Oceans” event held in Washington, D.C., in mid-June.

To ensure that its fish are accurately labeled, Price Chopper has utilized New York-based Therion International LLC, a DNA testing agency, for a few years. On a regular basis, Therion randomly tests fish fillets from the 133-store chain’s distribution center, “providing us with objective results that validate the species of our seafood, which in turn allows us to offer sound assurances to our customers that they are getting what they are paying for,” the retailer states on its website.

DNA is the “ultimate testing” that retailers, wholesalers and others can perform to validate the identity of a particular seafood species, William Gergits, co-founder and managing member of Therion, told SeafoodSource. “There is nothing better than the genetic code if you are trying to figure out identity questions for any living material,” Gergits said.

DNA testing and seafood traceability will become much more necessary in the future because of the likely approval of genetically engineered salmon by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to Gergits.

“It [FDA approval] is going to make companies that want to make other GMO seafood species do so. That is one of the motivations the government has [in developing traceability],” Gergits said. “Plus, we really have got to police the seafood industry. There are thousands of products coming [in] from countries around the world.”


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