Authorities develop new DNA tool to detect food fraud and expose misleading labelling
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has a new DNA scanning tool to identify the entire DNA content of a food.
The new analytical tool can proactively identify all the ingredients and their biological sources in a food, which will aid regulators in protecting consumers in relation to potential food fraud and/or misleading labelling.
The FSAI worked with a commercial laboratory (Identigen) over the past two years in adapting a relatively new DNA sequencing technology known as “next generation sequencing”, so that it could be used as a DNA scanning tool in food.
The idea is to compare the actual ingredients in a food, identified by their DNA profile, with those declared on the label. Up to this, DNA testing of food required analysts to know what they wanted to look for specifically and then test for it – such target information is no longer a pre-requisite.
According to Dr Pat O’Mahony, Chief Specialist, Food Science and Technology, FSAI this applied use of next generation sequencing is unique in a regulatory context and will be a significant new asset for regulators to identify exactly what is contained in a food and if that matches what is stated on the product’s labelling.
It is now possible to scan the entire DNA content of a food without any prior knowledge or suspicion of what may or may not be present in that food.
“Even with the restriction of having to target the DNA of certain plant or animal species in previous studies, the FSAI has been able to detect food allergens and GMOs, and demonstrate the mislabelling of fish products.
"Of course targeted DNA analysis was also the method used by the FSAI in discovering horsemeat in beef products, which ultimately brought the global awareness of food fraud to a new level.”