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 has worked with commercial laboratory Identigen over the past two years to adapt a new DNA sequencing technology known as ‘next generation sequencing’, so that it could be used as a DNA scanning tool in food. The system has been designed to compare the actual ingredients in a food, identified by their DNA profile, with those declared on the label.
The system is expected to be useful in the growing plant-based foods sector where there may be undeclared ingredients that could pose a safety risk.
The FSAI has previously used targeted DNA analysis to detect and quantify genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food to find beef and porcine DNA in processed chicken fillets. It was also used by the FSAI to help identify the presence of horsemeat in beef products in 2013.
Dr Pat O’Mahony, chief specialist of food science and technology at the FSAI, said the technology would be an asset for regulators to identify exactly what was contained in a food and if that matched what was stated on the product’s labelling.
“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,” said Dr O’Mahony. “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.”