The Eurofins-TAG system from bioanalytical group Eurofins provides animal traceability and origin of meat validation using DNA fingerprint technology. Developed in the EU several years ago in response to a desire by the meat industry to regain consumer confidence following the BSE and Foot and Mouth disease outbreaks, Eurofins claims that the system has been proven reliable in a study involving 14,000 cattle.
Now the traceability certification expertise of Eurofins US and GeneScan USA has been combined to offer Eurofins-TAG, a high quality third-party validation of existing traceability programs, to the US meat industry.
The Eurofins-TAG traceability system begins with the establishment of a sampling plan that is statistically appropriate to provide the desired level of confidence of traceability. Reference samples are collected from each animal and a reference database is created.
The meat processor's traceability system is then validated by comparing the DNA profile of selected meat products with the DNA profile of the appropriate reference sample. Following successful validation of the existing system, the client is awarded a Eurofins-TAG traceability certificate.
This certificate can support claims of animal origin, species, quality, birth place and/or breeding method used.
The meat industry has historically tracked individual animals through the supply chain using paper-based traceability systems and ear-tags or other physical measures. Such physical measures of tracking are vulnerable to fraud or loss due to unavoidable, natural causes.
DNA traceability is a more accurate method of providing traceability from each piece of meat on sale to the animal of origin. Demand among consumers for more precise methods of traceability in the meat and food supply chain has grown in recent years due to increased awareness of food safety factors and greater concern about control within the food supply.
The US cattle industry has been tested by the recent discovery of a BSE infected animal. Part of the challenge faced by the industry and government agencies was to determine the source of the infected cow and the path it travelled through the supply chain. The difficulty investigators faced when tracing the movements of the animal through the supply chain, says Eurofins, highlights the need for accurate and reliable traceability systems in the meat industry.
The company argues that a third party, DNA-based validation, such as that provided by Eurofins-TAG, will give added confidence and support to existing traceability systems. This will in turn enhance the industry's ability to identify the animal of origin of a meat product on the store shelf.