Seafood Authentication Application Note

Seafood Mislabeling

Seafood mislabeling is a global problem affecting both consumers and producers. Mislabeled seafood accounts for nearly one third of all fish worldwide and 59% of tuna sold in America. The vast majority of mislabeled tuna is escolar, which is significantly cheaper and can cause serious digestive issues for some people. In this application note you will be introduced to tec5USA’s Raman spectrometer that can rapidly differentiate between bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, and escolar with 100% accuracy.

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Fraudulent Practices in Seafood Labeling

Fraudulent practices in seafood labeling account for losses of 26-50 billion dollars per year to seafood producers and distributors. That’s the equivalent of missing 15-20 million cows each year. Multiple tailwinds, including environmental, economic, and public health concerns demand that seafood fraud be mitigated. Environmental issues include depletion of high-risk species from overfishing, coral reef and oyster bed destruction from trawlers, and overestimating populations of at-risk fish species, such as bluefin tuna. In addition to the estimated 50 billion dollars lost each year, other economic effects derive from selling cheaply farmed fish as more expensive wild-caught. Other significant consequences are direct public health impacts, including digestive issues caused by the high content of wax esters in escolar, allergen potential for mislabeled species or physical contact with allergenic species, and ciguatera, which is the toxin found in some reef fishes.

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The Value of Seafood Authentication

The value of seafood authentication is clearly evident and there are some current methodologies in use. Whole, intact fish can be visually inspected to identify species with knowledge of unique morphology and specific characteristics of a given species. This is significantly more difficult when filets are purchased as the primary characteristics of the fish exterior have been removed. In that case, samples can be sent to a commercial laboratory for DNA speciation testing. A library of DNA is generated from known, authenticated species and compared to the sample’s DNA using PCR or ELISA based methods. These methods often take two weeks for results to get back to the customer and that is far longer than the shelf life of fresh fish. There is a need for rapid, onsite seafood authentication and tec5USA’s Raman spectrometer identifies tuna species in seconds.

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Raman Spectroscopy

Raman spectroscopy is ideal for species authentication based on spectral fingerprinting. tec5USA’s Raman system uses a 785 nm laser source. A small fraction of these photons are inelastically scattered by the molecules. The energy lost by these photons is equal to the fundamental vibrational energy of the molecules. The scattered light is then collected by fiber optics and delivered to the spectrometer, which disperses and detects it. The molecular vibrational frequencies appear in the Raman spectrum (Raman shift) which identify functional groups in the molecules within a sample. The distinctive molecules of various species can be identified and a chemometric model developed to identify the peak intensity differences between bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, and escolar. Notable peaks in Figure 1 are highlighted. Species-specific proteins and their relative amino acid concentrations absorb strongly, especially ring-containing amino acids: tryptophan, tyrosine, and phenylalanine.

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The Nondestructive Measurement

The nondestructive measurement takes approximately 15 seconds and there is no sample preparation required. Filets are placed inside the stainless steel enclosure that protects the user from the Raman laser and results are obtained. This ease of use and rapid detection provides a cost reduction per sample compared to laboratory analyses. The model was trained using 42 filet (3” x 3”) samples of bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, and escolar. Each filet was measured at 30 different locations to generate 1260 unique spectra in the data set. Machine learning was employed to extract chemically relevant information from the data set to build a statistical model for future prediction. There was a single outlier spectrum that was not identified in any of the three categories. Next, an external validation was performed by acquiring bluefin and escolar samples from a local sushi restaurant. Bluefin tuna from a sushi restaurant matched initial bluefin samples, similarly escolar from a sushi restaurant matched initial escolar samples (Fig. 2).

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Rapid Seafood Authentication

Rapid seafood authentication is needed for multiple ecological, economic, and public health reasons. tec5USA’s Raman system can determine fish species in seconds with 100% accuracy. This system can be readily assimilated into seafood producers and distributors quality control program and ensure product accuracy while limiting customer complaints.


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    Frequently Asked Questions at tec5USA

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    Raman spectroscopy is a technique which is used for several markets. These industries include Oil and Gas, Pharmacology, Biotechnology, Petrochemistry and many others. Due to the high selectivity of Raman spectroscopy, it is a powerful tool for many applications including, hydrocarbon analysis, bioreactor protein monitoring, crystallization monitoring, API concentration, polymer identification, surfactant analysis, natural gas components and several others....

    Typical applications include white light interference for thin film analysis, UV absorption of proteins for quantitative analysis, colorimetry, impurity detection in water, cleaning validation for API manufacturing, polymerization inhibitor monitoring, electroplating bath monitoring....

    NIR spectroscopy is utilized across a variety of industries for qualitative and quantitative product analysis. Typical industries include Chemistry, Pharmacology, Food Feed & Beverage, Agriculture, and others. NIR spectroscopy is well suited for species containing C-H, N-H & O-H bonds, making it a wide-range technology for a variety of applications such as moisture, fat, oil, alcohol, APIs, polymers, etc....

    Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction of light with matter. Light covers a broad range of the electromagnetic spectrum from high energy ultra violet (UV) photons to the near infrared (NIR), with the visible spectrum that we can see being in between. These different portions of the spectrum are important because they interact with matter in different ways. In the UV, these photons have high energy and therefore can induce electronic transitions, while the NIR photons can cause molecules to vibrate at unique frequencies. The way that we measure where compounds absorb light is by taking a spectrum, which is a graph showing the transmission of light as a function of the wavelength. All compounds have a unique absorption spectrum which can be used to identify the chemical composition of samples....

    The spectroscopic methodology is determined by which parameters are important to monitor during a process. For example, if you want to monitor protein concentration in a bioreactor, in which the biosynthesis takes place in an aqueous medium, then you likely would want to use Raman spectroscopy for the application, as water does not contribute to the Raman signal. Alternatively, if moisture content is important, water has very strong absorption in the NIR due to several vibrational and combination modes that can be monitored; water is transparent in the UV and visible spectral region. Understanding which chemical is important as there could be various factors that influence the choice of methodology....


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