DNA technology has advanced to the point where researchers can now check restaurant dishes and determine whether what is on the menu is what is on the plate…or, what is on the invoice is what is in the box.
For example, a team from the American Museum of Natural History recently sampled 68 servings of tuna sushi at 31 sushi bars in New York and Denver, reports the Wall Street Journal. Half the eateries had incorrectly labeled dishes, often using a species called escolar rather than the albacore tuna denoted on the menu. Escolar is banned in Italy and Japan because it can cause gastrointestinal illness, information that might be of some interest to the diners in Denver and New York.
While identifying fraud or cases of honest misidentification are some of the possible uses for the technology, scientists are also using it to crack down on the trade in endangered species, which sometimes gets passed off as something more legitimate.
An effort now underway at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph in Canada will compile a “DNA barcode” reference library of half a million species that field testers will have access to. Further down the road is a library with markers for every living thing, more than 10 million species. At some point, there may even be an “iPhone-like device” that will instantaneously identify species from a single little sample, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Maybe there will also be a game application: Guess the Species We're Having for Dinner…