Japanese university to battle eel fraud with cheap, rapid DNA testing

A school in Shizuoka has devised a chip-based system to quickly test batches of thousands of eels for cheaper imported species

A science institute in central Japan says it has devised a system to stop eel fraud using cheap DNA testing, as the summer surge in the foodstuff's popularity approaches amid a scarce local catch.

Eel caught locally is much more expensive than imports, due to trade restrictions and the declining numbers available on the market, and in recent years fraud has become a issue. Consumers are rarely able to tell the difference, but advances in DNA testing, which put most of the key technology on a single chip, have made such tests faster and more affordable.

Current DNA sequencing chips incorporate existing technologies such as CMOS sensors, based on the same technology as digital cameras, and prices for sequencing are falling. The cost of sequencing a human-sized genome has fallen into the thousands of dollars since the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003 at a cost of billions.

The slender, snaky fish are often served "kabayaki" style during the summer, cooked in thin slices with a sweet sauce. The traditional dish is thought to help avoid fatigue associated with Japan's hot, humid summer climate, and every year demand surges, increasing the chance of fraud.

"In the past tests had to check each eel individually, which costs 20,000 to 30,000 yen," said Toshihiro Tsuneyoshi, a professor and eel specialist at Shizuoka Institute of Science and Technology, where the test was developed. "This system can drive costs down to 20 or 30 yen per eel."

The Shizuoka Institute of Science and Technology said it can simultaneously test small tissue samples from thousands of eels, greatly reducing the cost and time required for testing. If a non-local eel is found in a batch, more tests will be performed to find the guilty foreigner, but as such cases are currently rare costs should remain low, Tsuneyoshi said. The university used testing equipment from California-based Life Technologies.

He said a similar system can also be used for other pricey foods where consumers can be easily duped, such as pricier cuts of tuna.

For now, concerned connoisseurs will have to rely on tests done by government inspectors, but DNA sequencing capabilities are already starting to appear in pocket-sized devices for other applications.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?