The technology bills itself as an affordable way to identify fishy issues.

Mike Pomranz
October 08, 2018

Fish fraud creates a frustrating conundrum for the food world. Unfortunately, studies seem to show that fraud of all kinds—including a surprising amount of intentional mislabeling—is extremely common with seafood. But at the same time, determining if a fish is what it purports to be in a practical way can be impossible. Congress has tried to address the issue—surprise, they haven’t gotten very far—so instead, scientists have been trying to put the power to detect illegitimate seafood in the literal hands of suppliers. One of these devices was just recognized at Europe’s InnovEIT awards last week. 

Though TellSpec, as the sensor is called, is small enough to fit in any seafood lover’s pocket, it’s still not quite cheap enough to end up there. The technology, which is targeted at those along the supply chain, costs about $1,450—and, though the smartphone app it connects to is free, users are still required to pay a fee per analysis, . 

Still, CEO Isabel Hoffmann billed the sensor—which can already be used to analyze —as a powerful tool for detecting all sorts of fishy issues as well. “Fish fraud and adulteration is the second biggest form of food fraud in the world after olive oil,” Hoffmann told the site, namechecking another notorious issue. “Our technology is very disruptive since currently there are no rapid, portable affordable sensors that the fish supply chain can use.” She suggests that depending on the kit a user has, they could sample for problems like excess water, decay, and antibiotics. TellSpec can also analyze nutrient contents, which she says could help determine farmed fish from wild fish. 

The Holy Grail, however, would be identifying mislabeled fish. She says the device can handle this too, but it has some limitations. First, testing the fish destroys it, so these tests are most useful on large batches. But second, each type of fish would need its own kit. “The idea is we will develop many kits, one for pangasius, one for cod, and so on.” 

© Shana Novak/Getty Images

Regardless, Hoffmann says TellSpec is hoping to launch its fish analysis system in Europe by mid-2019. Yes, it’s still a ways off, but it’s probably safe to say it will arrive well before all seafood starts becoming properly labeled. 

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