Potential uses include determining if cheese has matured, whether gelatine contains pork or if eggs are free-range or battery farmed. Founding member of IPOS Dr Powles said the technology will provide “a form of quality assurance".
The chemometric software, called Mass Profiler Professional (MPP), was developed by researchers from the University of Huddersfield’s IPOS Centre to extract data about the chemical composition of items.
The researchers say its services will be available within 2015 when producers, retailers and consumers can submit samples to the IPOS lab to be tested “for a modest fee".
Professor Mike Page told FoodNavigator: “The basic technique uses Mass Spectrometry to identify important groups of biomolecules such as proteins and DNA. The trick is to use principal component analysis to select which set of biomolecules is characteristic of the sample origin.”
“[It is a] commercial software but requires our expertise to interpret. The uniqueness is how we use the data,” he added.
The researchers had been using MPP for pharmaceutical purposes but decided to foray into food industry applications when their commercial partner Agilent challenged them find a way of determining the difference between pork and beef gelatine.
Gelatines are widely used in the pharmacy, cosmetics and food production industries, and Muslim and Hindu consumers are increasingly looking for guarantees that products are beef or pork-free.
Since 2012 IPOS says it has completed hundreds of analytical projects for diverse customers.
IPOS has one commercial partner Agilent, who works to “ensure that the global food supply is free of contaminants – whether chemical, viral, bacterial or microbiological".