DNA Testing Delivers Positive Results for MSC Traceability Standard, Validation Programme

Lucy Towers
11 July 2012, at 1:00am

GLOBAL - Independent DNA testing on randomly selected MSC-labelled products shows that the MSC traceability certification requirements continue to deliver a very high degree of consumer assurance.

Of the 196 products tested in the most recent market sampling, 192 were correctly labelled a positive validation rate of 98 per cent - and testing confirmed they originated from the species of fish identified on the pack. Samples were collected from across eleven different markets (including markets in Europe, Africa, the Americas, Australasia and Asia).

The four samples that were not correctly labelled were referred by the MSC for further investigation by the certifiers of the parts of the supply chains where the product substitution or mixing is likely to have occurred. Expedited audits have been carried out as a result of the DNA test results. In relation to three products the issue was identified and shown to have been resolved. In the fourth instance an action plan to facilitate identification and surveillance of future potential risks will be put in place. The MSC has also informed affected brand owners.

If certifiers identify breaches of the Chain of Custody standard, either during a normal audit or as a result of investigations such as those conducted by the MSC, they require Chain of Custody certificate holders to remedy any problems, so ensuring the robustness of MSC supply chains.

Forensic techniques boost MSC traceability programme

The MSC developed DNA tests for three species in 2009 and carried out testing on 240 random samples, none of which were found to be mislabelled.

The MSC added to its repertoire of DNA tests in 2011 by working with the independent laboratory of TRACE Wildlife Forensics Network to develop identification tests for: South African hake (Merluccius capensis and Merluccius paradoxus), Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) and hoki (genus Macruronus).

The MSC is expanding its DNA testing by further increasing the sample size and continuing to develop new identification tests. This will include European plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) and haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus). The MSC will also use the regional identifiers for Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) found through the EU FP7 FishPopTrace project.

The DNA testing programme is funded through a combination of financial support from private foundations and logo licensing revenue from ecolabel users. In addition to DNA tests, the MSC conducts regular random traceback exercises within the supply chain. This checking by the MSC complements the audits regularly conducted by MSC Chain of Custody certifiers, ensuring that all elements of the supply chain and the MSC Chain of Custody programme are regularly scrutinised.

Respect for the MSCs Chain of Custody programme enhanced

David Agnew, standards director of the MSC said: The MSCs Chain of Custody (CoC) standard is highly respected and is designed to ensure that uncertified fish is not mixed with, or mislabelled as, MSC certified fish. Our extensive checks, conducted through DNA testing and product tracebacks, provide consumers and stakeholders extra assurance that the product they are buying is correctly labelled.

Reinvestment of logo income in DNA testing helps protect partner investment

Alison Roel, product integrity manager of the MSC said: The DNA analysis project provides an additional means of helping our partners protect their investment in the MSC programme, and were going to continue to expand testing to increase our overview of the Chain of Custody programme. Any cases where mislabelling is identified will be referred to the certifiers of the supply chain so they can be further investigated.