"Animal ID" will develop analytical methods with which animal ingredients in food and feed can be detected.
This will include rapid tests which can be done on site, i.e. in the facilities and during official inspections.
The three year project is co-ordinated by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) with the Scientific and Medical Institute at the University of Tübingen (NMI) and the Institute for Product Quality (ifp) as partners.
Professor Dr Andreas Hensel, BfR president, said illegal additions of meat is a worry for consumers but can also pose health risks.
"For this reason, it is imperative that the supervisory authorities have methods at their disposal allowing them to reveal cases of food adulteration quickly and reliably."
Undermine confidence and health risk
Adulteration of animal-based foods has the potential to undermine the confidence of consumers and can pose a health risk.
BfR said it was vital the authenticity of food and feed can be verified by analytical means. The reasons for adulteration can be illegal practices or inadvertent addition of non-declared animal components.
Authorities must be able to verify the zoological origin of animal-based foods during official inspections, especially if, owing to processing, products can visually not be attributed to a particular animal species.
For less processed food and feed, immunological rapid tests are a good option as they can be done on site without the need for specific expertise and a laboratory, and take about ten minutes.
It is planned that such tests will be developed for the most important animal species used for meat products such as cattle, pig, horse, sheep, goat, chicken, turkey, goose, duck, reindeer, elk and deer.
The most realistic alternative for the feed sector is the use of mass spectrometry with peptide and protein enrichment methods, added the agency.
Scientific network launch
The BfR also held a meeting on authenticity testing earlier this month. The newly created scientific network will study questions in chemical and biomolecular authenticity testing of food and feed.
Common challenges in relation to the generation and use of databases and standardisation of procedures were identified.
Non-targeted procedures should make it possible to record characteristic fingerprints of a food or feed and check it against a reference library.
In the past there have repeatedly been cases of adulterated food and feed posing health risks to consumers, said BfR.
“Apart from adulterations such as the illegal addition of substances, the main issues which concern authenticity testing cover the geographical origin, species and variety differentiation as well as different production methods used for food and feed,” it added.
CFDA AND BfR partnership
Meanwhile, the China Drug and Food Administration (CFDA) and BfR agreed to expand work in product and food safety.
"In view of the global trade of agrarian products, worldwide standards in the area of product and food safety are becoming increasingly important,” said Hensel.
One of the focal points was development of detection methods for contaminants and other substances.
CFDA is responsible for the registration and certification of medical products and devices, drugs, foods and cosmetic products for the Chinese market.
According to the Federal Statistical Office, in 2015 Germany imported goods of the agricultural and food industry from the People’s Republic of China with a value of €1.55bn.