ILS Demonstrates Important Technology for Meat Authenticity

Since January 2013 the FSA, government departments and local authorities have continued the urgent investigation into how a number of beef products on sale in the UK came to contain horse meat. To date, the Agency has tested thousands of products throughout the UK to find out just how widespread the problem is. 

There have been many questions into how the horse meat ended up in many of the meat products on our supermarket shelves, the evidence obtained pointed to either gross negligence or deliberate contamination in the food chain. Food Fraud is somewhat of a hot topic in the food industry whether it be foreign bodies, incorrectly labelled produce, meat contamination or allergens and cross contamination. Recent changes to the food labelling regulations have been put in place to help reduce the number of food fraud cases and prevent manufacturers from cutting corners and using cheaper substitutes. 

Food manufacturers are legally responsible for the safety and accuracy of their products and ensuring your products meet the specifications to achieve the highest quality standards is an essential part of protecting brand integrity and providing consumer confidence.

Since the initial Horse Meat outbreak in 2013, Meat Speciation Testing has been a key factor when it comes to food safety testing, and contract laboratories providing food safety testing have seen a significant increase in the request for meat authenticity and speciation services.

Previously laboratories have undertaken meat speciation testing using ELISA tests kits for various types of meat; in the past ELISA testing has been sufficient in the provision of Meat Speciation Testing, providing a reasonable limit of detection down to 1%.  Unfortunately industry and regulatory requirements for meat authenticity have further developed analytical methods to detect and measure adulteration of meat products have evolved and more sophisticated biological techniques are now being used.

Unlike ELISA, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing process uses a DNA analysis system which accurately identifies the DNA for each organism in your products. In comparison to ELISA, PCR testing can reach 0.1% levels of detection, precisely identifying any contaminating meat species. PCR amplifies fragments of DNA extracted from food samples to confirm that the product is precisely what it claims.

International Laboratory Services have partnered with multinational, biotechnology product development company Thermo Fisher Scientific® to provide its clients with real-time PCR testing for Meat Speciation. Standard Testing kits provide qualitative results for equine (horse), beef, pork, sheep, goat, fallow deer, even differentiating between chicken and turkey in any raw, cooked or processed products. However with the range of commercially available testing kits, ILS has the potential to provide authenticity testing for any species!

Quality is the first priority for ILS which is why the food chemistry department have made the decision to use two market leaders in the field of PCR testing. ILS are privileged to have a PikoReal® instrument provided by Thermo Fisher Scientific® that is relatively new to the market, this has been coupled with Life Technologies® RapidFinder ID kits, who offer commercially available kits that provide the Quality that ILS demand for their customers.

The equine kit – used for horse meat speciation - uses two TaqMan®-MGB probes, one of them is labelled with FAM dye, which specifically detects one mitochondrial DNA sequence of Equus caballus. The second probe is labelled with VIC and detects an Internal Positive Control, which is used to rule out inhibitors in the sample and check the assay is functioning correctly. The detection limit has been calculated upon standard samples consisting of mixtures of raw horse meat and other species. This provides a much lower limit of detection down to 0.1% (w/w) for horse meat. However, the limit of detection in processed samples varies depending on the processing and composition of the food. The kits also offer greater specificity, and lower cross-reactivity, compared with the traditional Elisa methodology.

It is due to continual investments and technical advances that allow ILS to remain ahead of the field in contract laboratory research, consultancy and testing services, with over 600 customers within the industry it is essential that ILS pass on these benefits to its customers.

The partnership between International Laboratory Services and Thermo Fisher Scientific will allow ILS to have a technological advantage, to guarantee that ILS’s customers continue to receive fast and on-time delivery of results to the highest standards of quality and precision. This in turn, will enable food manufacturers and processors to boost confidence in their products and ensure they remain compliant with food regulations. 


International Laboratory Services