Meat detector offers low-cost test for adulteration

Adulterated meatA device that can distinguish between different types of meat could in time be used to avoid a repeat of the horsemeat scandal that gripped the UK earlier this year.

The Institute of Food Research in the UK has teamed up with Oxford Instruments to develop improved ways of testing meat in the food chain using techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to analyse the fatty acid composition of food samples.

The aim was to develop a benchtop device that would be affordable across the supply chain - from public and private specialist laboratories through to retailers and even suppliers further up the food chain. The unit - called Pulsar - was introduced to the market earlier this year, while the IFR is developing the analysis software needed to apply it to food fraud.

The development comes shortly after experts in the UK told the BBC that a reduction in the number of food samples sent for testing - coupled with an increase in food fraud - that could lead to a recurrence of the contamination incident in which horsemeat was found in ready-meals and other food products labelled as containing only beef.

A recently published report from the UK's National Audit Office found that among other things there is a need to improve, increase and expand current authenticity testing regimes.

The fatty acid profiles of meat from different animals are readily distinguishable using NMR, but until recently the equipment to carry out these tests has been too expensive and technically complicated to allow deployment in industrial settings.

Using Pulsar, dozens of samples could be analysed per day, taking 10-15 minutes per test, at a typical cost of less than £20 per sample, according to the company.

"This makes the system ideal and affordable for high-throughput screening, or for pre-screening ahead of more time-consuming and expensive DNA testing," it adds. DNA testing can cost up to £500 to perform and takes several days to get results, and it is estimated that food retailers spend £1m a year on samples testing.

The collaboration with the IFR has reached a point where scientists are able to differentiate between whole cuts or chunks of beef, lamb, pork and horse.

Further development work will be carried out over the coming months, to extend the methodology to the detection of small amounts of minced meat in the presence of another, mimicking many of the adulteration events that came to light earlier this year.

     Want our news sent directly to your inbox?

Yes please 2


Home  |  About us  |  Contact us  |  Advertise  |  Links  |  Partners  |  Privacy Policy  |   |  RSS feed   |  back to top