Fishing and processing bluefin tuna at an ABS Seafood plant in San Francisco (Photo: Nick Otto / The Washington Post)

Tuna cans available in the Mexican market contain unlabeled dolphin meat Therefore, they constitute a food fraud in addition to the fact that their production puts a protected and endangered species at risk, as determined by an investigation carried out at the Cuautitlán School of Higher Studies in La National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

In three of the 15 samples of commercial canned tuna analyzed, both in oil and in water, the food engineer Karla Vanessa Hernández Herbert and Dr. José Francisco Montiel Sosa identified the reference sample of the dolphin genetic information. The research was based on the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technique that allowed the identification and quantification of the species used in the preparation of the food product.

The study revealed that various species of dolphins are killed due to illegal fishing. This may be due to the proximity with which schools of yellowfin tuna and dolphins swim, causing both species to be trapped in fishing nets.

The UNAM remarked that despite the existence of a rule in charge of regulating the capture of marine mammals for research, transport, exhibition, handling and maintenance purposes the tuna sector remains vulnerable to fraud.

Shoal of tuna in the Galapagos Marine Reserve in Ecuador (Photo: . / Jorge Silva)

“Although the ingestion of dolphin does not represent a health risk, the fraudulent addition of substances that are not authentic and consumer deception are unacceptable”Declared food engineer Karla Vanessa Hernández Herbert.

Correct food labeling is an effective tool to protect the health of consumers in terms of food safety and nutrition, the researchers said. “It is vitally important that the consumer knows what he is buying and consuming. There is a deception when the producer adds to a food something that has not been reported, species cheaper than lower costs and violate buyer trust”Said Dr. Montiel.

According to the researchers, the PCR technique makes it possible to create multiple copies of a certain region of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in vitro. This serves to identify animal species and degrees of kinship, as the researcher José Francisco Montiel Sosa has done before to verify the authenticity of the food, to know if it is adulterated and to know if it contains substances other than those declared on the labeling.

When applying the PCR to the study of canned tuna, Hernández Herbert and Montiel Sosa confirmed the presence of dolphin meat. They carried out electrophoresis in agarose gels and observed an amplification band of 420 base pairs, corresponding to the reference sample of marine mammal DNA.

Bluefin tuna research in Finless Foods lab (Photo: Nick Otto / The Washington Post)

Montiel Sosa has conducted research dedicated to studying the quality of various products such as coffee, hamburger meat, Norwegian cod, soy, corn, granola and apple, among others. The genetic modification it is one of the main conditions studied in their research.

The results of this investigation are added to the information released by the Federal Consumer Prosecutor’s Office (Profeco) on the abundant presence of unlabeled soy in tuna cans: 18 of 57 canned tuna presentations contained up to 62% soy. Although Profeco pointed out brands such as Aurrera, Chedraui, Ke! Price, Anchor, Precissimo and Great Value, among others, the new investigation from the Cuautitlán School of Higher Studies did not specify which products are contaminated and improperly labeled.

Mexico is one of the 80 nations that has a fishing sector dedicated to tuna that generates 12 thousand direct jobs and approximately 60 thousand indirect jobs, according to the National Commission for Aquaculture and Fisheries (CONAPESCA).

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