Double gene targeting technique distinguishes between closely-related species in meat products

Adulteration of sausage meat can now be accurately detected by a new technique developed by scientists in Malaysia.

In 2013, the horsemeat scandal in the UK drew public attention to the importance of being able to authenticate the contents of processed food. Detection of food fraud is essential for a variety of health, religious and economic reasons.

A team headed by Eaqub Ali of the University of Malaya has now developed a highly sensitive method of identifying beef, buffalo and pork in meat products. The technique works even after samples have been processed at high temperatures and pressures.

Current authentication techniques analyse long strands of DNA to identify which animals have been butchered to produce the food. However, these long strands decompose naturally, and can be broken down during processing. The new method targets two different gene sites for each of the three species, all of which are shorter and more stable under extreme conditions.

The team can detect even 0.1% contamination of any of the three animal products in frankfurter-style sausages. Analysing commercial Malaysian sausages, the team found buffalo meat in all the sampled beef frankfurters. All the pork products they tested were unadulterated.