Food Fraud - Putting DNA and Proteins to the Test

Submitted by on Fri, 01/30/2015 - 10:48

Food fraud is a collective term used to encompass the deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering, or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients, or food packaging; or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain (Spink and Moyer, 2011a). The types of fraud include adulteration, tampering, overrun, theft, diversion, simulation, and counterfeiting (Spink and Moyer, 2011b).

Food Fraud is not a new phenomenon,  but is gaining attention in recent years due to the number of cases and the costs associated with the fraud.  Recent food fraud cases include horse meat scandals and cases related to the intentional mislabelling of fish in stores.  Some of the common foods involved in adulteration include olive oil, milk, honey, saffron, coffee, tea, fish and meat.

The adulteration of meat products with undeclared animal species can result in recalls of the products and reduce consumer confidence on well established product brands.  Laboratory testing is used to determine the species composition of processed meat products to assess their authenticity.

The Agriculture & Food Laboratory offers analytical tests for the presence of various animal species (e.g. beef, pork, ruminant) in food or feed samples.  PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) methods are used to detect animal species-specific DNA while ELISA (Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay) methods are applied in the detection of species-specific proteins in food and feed samples. The Agriculture & Food Laboratory is accredited by SCC to ISO/IEC 17025 for the “Detection of Residual Bovine, Ruminant, Porcine, Animal and Rice DNA in Feed and Food Samples” as listed on our scope of Accreditation.

In order to meet your operational needs, we offer same day results for rush services or 2-3 business days for standard services.  Use these results to gauge control measures used to prevent undeclared materials in food operations, to support export activities and other uses. 

Our current PCR methods cover:

  • Bovine,
  • Ruminant,
  • Porcine,
  • Chicken and Turkey,
  • Animal in plant-based foods

Our current ELISA methods cover:

  • Beef,
  • Pork,
  • Poultry,
  • Sheep,
  • Horse,
  • Deer*
  • Turkey*

*cooked meat only.

Our laboratory also offers analytical testing for the identification of unknown animal or plant species.   Identification is done using DNA sequencing.

Please contact Client Services at 519-767-6299 or aflinfo@uoguelph.ca for more information.

Spink, J. and Moyer, D.C. 2011a. Defining the Public Health Threat of FoodFraud. J of Food Sci 76(9): R157-162.

Spink, J. and Moyer, D.C. 2011b. Backgrounder: Defining the Public Health Threat of Food Fraud, in Research Grants. National Center for FoodProtection and Defense (NCFPD). http://www.ncfpd.umn.edu. Minneapolis,MN. p. 7.

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