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News article10 March 20201 min read

First Certified Reference Material for fish to combat food fraud

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The JRC has produced the first ever Certified Reference Material (CRM) for the genetic identification of fish.

It concerns a fish powder of Hippoglossus hippoglossus, Atlantic halibut. CRM EURM®-020 supports the correct labelling of fresh fish and fish products.

Food fraud intentionally deceives consumers and violates relevant EU legislation. Replacing one species of fish with a cheaper one is a type of food fraud that has repeatedly gained attention. EU Legislation requires a transparent production, processing and marketing of fishery or aquaculture products. Control authorities verify the correct labelling of fish produced.

This is performed by using DNA based authenticity tests. Traditionally, morphological characteristics of the whole fish and identification keys were used for species identification. This is a complex process, especially when distinguishing very closely related fish species, coexisting in the same catch area.


Short ranges of unique regions of mitochondrial DNA, called 'DNA barcodes', are now sufficient for species identification. The analysed barcodes are compared to sequences in specific DNA databases.

To support control authorities in performing the checks, the JRC produced a CRM for the identification of a commercially important fish species.

The CRM EURM® -020 material was produced from one fillet originating from a single fish.

The fish fillet pieces were dried using a freeze-drying process and cryogenically milled to obtain a fine powder. The powder was certified to be Hippoglossus hippoglossus (Atlantic halibut), based upon PCR amplification and bi-directional Sanger sequencing results of two barcode regions of mitochondrial DNA: the cytochrome b gene (cytb) and the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I gene (COI) and subsequent comparison of sequences in the GenBank® (NCBI), FishTrace (EC) and the Bar Code of Life Database System (BOLD) databases.

The related barcode methods became available as standardised methods (CEN/TS17303:2019).

The certificate and certification report for CRM EURM®-020 are available in our online catalogue:

    Relevant legislation:

    Related Content

    Certified Reference Materials catalogue of the JRC

    EURM®-020 Hippoglossus Hippoglossus (Atlantic Halibut) - fish powder


    Publication date
    10 March 2020