New nuclear marker to help battle illegal caviar trade

For those who have a taste for some of the more expensive culinary dishes around, i.e. Beluga caviar, there has long been a threat that you could be paying out for fake or illegal forms of the highly prized, and highly priced, food item.

Now, however, researchers from across Italy, Russia, Germany and Romania have designed and developed what they say is the world's the first genetic nuclear marker to help identify true Beluga sturgeon (a.k.a. Huso huso), the most sought-after caviar producer.

There have been problems for years given that Beluga sturgeon, where the caviar eggs come from, is critically endangered and there are laws and major restrictions across many countries in place set to protect these endangered species.

The traditional source of this delicacy is from the sturgeons in the Caspian and Black Sea, but they have been dwindling since demand for Beluga caviar increased.

According to data from the Caviar Emptor environmental coalition, between 2004 and 2005, the sturgeon stock in that region declined by as much as 45 per cent, leading to the introduction of these restrictive laws.

This has inevitably however led to illegal and counterfeit trade, and it is this that the researchers are aiming to stop. They used a Beluga-specific nuclear marker and a diagnostic tool to separate the real Beluga from the fakes, or those that are routinely passed off as being Beluga, but are from a different, less expensive species.

The researchers say that their marker can also help seek out "interspecific hybrids," in which the Beluga is one of the parent species, such as in the case of the Bester, which they say "produces one of the most mis-labelled caviars in trade."

They conclude that: "The complete identification power on this highly relevant species and the proved efficacy on caviar samples represent an essential progress towards a standardized panel of nuclear markers for the control of illegal poaching, smuggling and mis-labelling of sturgeons and their products."

The problem was brought into sharp focus last year when a market survey, published in the Journal of Applied Ichthyology, found that a considerable amount of sturgeon caviar sold in Bulgaria and Romania had been mis-labelled, and even counterfeit.

Related articles:

     Want our news sent directly to your inbox?

Yes please 2


Home  |  About us  |  Contact us  |  Advertise  |  Links  |  Partners  |  Privacy Policy  |   |  RSS feed   |  back to top