French project to fight canned tuna fraud
By Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris
17 September, 2012
A quick and reliable tool to combat fraud in the canned tuna industry will soon reach the market as Europe injects more than EUR 1 million (USD 1.3 million) in funding for the French Idthon project.
Coordinated by Aquimer, an institution that supports the French seafood industry, Idthon aims to develop a reliable, quick and easy analytical method to identify canned tuna species.
“The aim is to fight fraud, that costs between EUR 1 billion to EUR 8 billion, to the canned tuna industry, and to minimize confusion between tuna species at the point of being fished,” Aquimer said this week.
The EUR 1.13 million (USD 1.48 million) Idthon project aims to create analytical tools that enable canning firms to counteract two key problems: The accidental mixing of species when the fish is sorted, which leads to a partial contamination of some batches (less than 1 percent), and the fraudulent use of a substitute raw material for financial gain.
Canned tuna is big business in France. In 2010, the market for canned tuna reached around 112,000 tons, accounting for more than 50 percent of the purchasing volume of canned aquatic products, according to Aquimer. But controlling supplies can be a problem for the tuna canning companies. And knowing which species are contained in the batches of raw material is critical.
Skipjack tuna is the leading species for canned tuna, but albacore, bigeye and the white tuna are also used in the processing and production of heat-treated canned products. Products available on the French market come from all over the world.
Three technologies were selected to obtain qualitative and quantitative data on the various species: Real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) for the characterization of DNA; mass spectometry for the quantification of peptides or metabolites; and fluorescence spectroscopy to obtain a mapping.
“These three methods which complement one another will enable us to direct research toward pertinent shared points. Their synergy will enable us to envisage new emerging technological approaches,” said Aquimer.
A cluster of organizations are working on the project, including two universities, research institution IFREMER and two laboratories, Phylogène and Nouvelles Vagues, which will provide services to tuna canning firms.
17 September, 2012