Scientists develop test for meat authentification using a benchtop NMR machine

UK chemists have developed a method to distinguish horse meat from beef using a benchtop NMR machine. The new test is quicker, cheaper and simpler than the current gold standard used by food safety bodies.

In early 2013, the discovery that some beef burgers contained horse meat caused a Europe-wide meat authenticity crisis. Researchers have since been looking for meat purity tests that can replace standard DNA tests, which are accurate but expensive, slow and don’t give reliable quantitative results.

Now a group of researchers from Norwich and Oxford, UK, has developed a method to distinguish beef from horse meat in only 10 minutes. The team analysed the levels of triglycerides in both horse and beef extracts using a 60MHz benchtop NMR machine. In two labs, the group tested 117 fresh and frozen meat samples, only misidentifying a single one. They now hope to extend their method to spot horse meat in processed foods that are supposed to only have beef in them.