By Noah Kaufman
Updated February 19, 2015

Fake fish continues to be a real problem in this country. And we’re not talking about vegan experiments in fish imitation, we’re talking about fish that is intentionally mislabeled. Instead of getting one kind, you often unknowingly buy a cheap knockoff. For example, a recent study found that fish sold as red snapper is actually red snapper just seven percent of the time. Seven percent! Your odds of getting actual snapper aren’t that much better than getting shot in the head while playing roulette. But testing has always been expensive and slow, so there hasn’t been a good way to fight back against the fraud. But that’s changing.

Two scientists from the University of South Florida created a handheld fish tester that will be developed by the company PureMolecular. The device, which resembles a pen, purifies a small tissue sample and tests its genetic makeup. 45 minutes later you’ll know if your fish is what it’s supposed to be. That sounds like a super long time, but right now the FDA’s fish testing takes days. One drawback of the new method is that it can only give yes or no answers for one type of fish. The inventors chose grouper because its often replaced with cheap catfish in the region, but versions for tuna, shrimp and yes, snapper are also in development.

The first batch should be available by the end of the year. With the increased risk of getting caught, fraudulent fishmongers and chefs will be on their toes and hopefully less tempted to take advantage of seafood lovers.

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