Researchers at the University of British Columbia have found a better way to identify unwanted animal products in ground beef.
Food science students led by professor Xiaonan Lu used a laser-equipped spectrometer and statistical analysis to determine with 99 per cent accuracy whether ground beef samples included other animal parts. They were able to say with 80 per cent accuracy which animal parts were used, and in what concentration.
Their new method can accomplish all of this in less than five minutes, which makes it a potentially transformative food inspection tool for government and industry.
“By using this innovative technique, the detection of food fraud can be simpler, faster and easier,” said the study’s lead author Yaxi Hu, a PhD candidate in UBC’s faculty of land and food systems.
Food fraud is the intentional misrepresentation of food products for economic gain. When producers hold an excess supply of meat or byproducts for which there is relatively little market demand, the potential exists for unscrupulous operators to try to pass those products off as something else. In the past five years, high-profile scandals in the U.K., Ireland, and Russia have seen lamb, chicken and even rat meat substituted for higher-quality meat products.
DNA testing has proven efficient and accurate in identifying foreign species in meat products, but what DNA testing cannot do is identify offal—hearts, livers, kidneys and stomachs—mixed in with meat of the same species.
To establish their method, the UBC researchers aimed a spectrometer at meat samples they had prepared by grinding together beef and offal from local supermarkets at various concentrations. Because animal products all have different chemical compositions, their molecules absorb and scatter energy from the spectrometer’s laser in different ways. The spectrometer captures these signals—or spectra—to produce an “image” of each substance. These spectral images can serve as a library for comparison with other samples.
Whether a meat sample is authentic or adulterated with offal can be determined by comparing its spectral image with the pre-established library, to see if there’s a match.
The method improves on existing techniques that are more complicated and time-consuming. For example, a technique known as liquid chromatography works well, but it requires meat samples to be liquefied with solvents before testing, which can take more than an hour.
“The instrumentation for this technique is not that complex,” Hu said. “So, if government or industry wants to do some rapid screening, they don’t need to find highly trained personnel to conduct the experiment.”
All they would need is a spectrometer and user-friendly software that connects to a robust library of spectral images. As more types of meat and offal were analyzed and their results stored, the technique would become even more accurate.
The researchers’ ultimate goal is to create an affordable smart device that could be used by consumers at home for the authentication of different food products, much like the pregnancy-test strip.
The study was published Nov. 9 in Scientific Reports. Hu’s co-authors were electrical and computer engineering post-doctoral fellow Liang Zou; food science undergraduate student Xiaolin Huang; and corresponding author Xiaonan Lu, a 2017 UBC Peter Wall Scholar and associate professor in the faculty of land and food systems. The research is supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.
The Latest on: Food fraud
- Survey finds deep concerns about food fraud in UK on October 4, 2018 at 4:22 am
Nearly three-quarters of consumers think there is an issue with food fraud in the UK, while more than a quarter say they have experienced it first-hand. That is the finding of an NFU Mutual survey on ... […]
- Fraud charge filed in connection with fake restaurant reservations on September 21, 2018 at 12:02 pm
A former employee of a restaurant reservation company has been charged with one count of wire fraud by the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago after allegedly making hundreds of fake restaurant bookings ... […]
- Food fraud affects many supermarket staples, so how do you choose the good stuff? on September 4, 2018 at 3:28 am
When we buy food, we take it on faith that the product matches the label. Recent revelations that many honey products may be adulterated have left many questioning this trust. While the impacted produ... […]
- Expert seeks measures to curb food fraud on August 30, 2018 at 4:17 pm
The Country Manager, HarvestPlus, Dr Paul Ilona has renewed calls for collaboration to help tackle food fraud. PricewaterhouseCoopers, a multinational professional services firm based in London,(PwC) ... […]
- Food Fraud, Food Safety, and Public Policy on July 26, 2018 at 7:18 am
Food fraud and problems with food safety erode the trust of consumers in the food supply. Food safety is at the forefront of numerous headlines on foodborne outbreaks. Internationally, the food system ... […]
- Triad pair charged with frozen food fraud on July 18, 2018 at 9:01 am
YANCEYVILLE, N.C. — A Triad pair faces felony charges in a case of frozen food fraud, according to a news release. Amanda Nicole Gordon, 31, of Thomasville and Christopher Michael Hutchins, 40, of Sum... […]
- Food fraud spoils value for all, study finds on June 26, 2018 at 7:21 am
A new study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln examined food fraud's effects producers using consumer valuation of extra virgin olive oil. Credit: Shutterstock Emerging research from the Universi... […]
- Food fraud: 6 of the most commonly faked products and how to avoid them on February 11, 2018 at 1:00 am
Our live coverage has ended. This is an archived live blog. If you’re a smart shopper you may always be on the lookout for counterfeit bags, shoes and watches when heading to the mall. But what about ... […]
- How technology will help fight food fraud on October 16, 2017 at 3:13 pm
Food fraud is everywhere. In the aftermath of the horsemeat scandal in Europe, and with cases reported around the world, including in Canada, awareness is high. Dalhousie University recently released ... […]
via Google News and Bing News