dna methods (10)


As the popularity of coffee as a beverage in Europe grew in the 18th century, so has its vulnerability to adulteration and fraud. This review looks at the changing methodology to uncover adulteration and fraud over 3 centuries. It focuses on the discrimination between coffee and other foods or between coffee and its by-products. The earliest chemical, physical and microscopy methods are presented followed by methods developed in the 20th and 21st centuries using chromatography and spectroscopy associated with advanced statistical tools, and DNA-based methods. The earliest adulterant studied was chicory, but from the 20th century onwards, maize, coffee by-products, and barley were the most studied, followed by chicory, rice and other food items. Most methods have low sensitivity, and are adversely affected by matrix effects, especially degree of roasting.

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The report gives evidence of the illegal trade of wild caught sturgeon in the lower region of the Danube specifically in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Ukraine. Because sturgeon is an endangered species, the trade in both wild and aquaculture fish and its products (primarily caviar) is regulated through CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species). The project looked at official data of enforcement on illegal fishing activities. It also carried out a market survey from October 2016 to July 2020, and collected 145 samples of fresh and processed sturgeon, as well as caviar, from the retail and catering sectors in the four countries. During this period all fishing and trade in wild sturgeon was prohibited in Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. Serbia was permitted to have a restrictive catch of wild sterlet sturgeon above 40cm in length, but even this was only until the end of 2018, after which it became illegal as well.

All the samples were analysed by 3 DNA methods (mitochondrial DNA sequencing for species, microsatellites for identification of species and hybrids, and SNPs (single nucloeotide polymorphism) for hybrid and species identification). In addition, stable isotopes analysis (SIRA) was carried out to give information on whether the fish was wild or farmed based on feedstuffs, and geographic origin. The results indicated that 30% of the samples tested were illegal, 27 samples were from illegally caught wild sturgeon, 17 samples of caviar were in violation of CITES Regulations.

Download the full report here

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A Ph.D thesis from the University of Milan-Bicocca in English is publicly available. The thesis gives a good overview of DNA barcoding, NGS (Next Generation Sequencing) and metabarcoding, and isothermal nucleic acid amplification. The research carried out looked at applying DNA barcoding to processed foods, which required smaller DNA fragments. However, the approach is not suitable for mixed species samples, and NGS and metabarcoding approaches were more successful. Finally, an isothermal amplification assay was applied to authenticate truffles.

You can read the 253 page thesis here   

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Analytical Toolbox for Food Fraud


This article summarises the authenticity analytical approaches (based on building blocks of food) to identify the most suitable procedures to prevent food fraud. The methods described are not exhaustive, but cover the majority of approaches that are currently
undertaken. In particular, DNA methodology, proteomics, chromatographic methods and stable isotope ratio analysis are discussed.

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The use of pork and porcine ingredients is banned in halal and kosher foods. This review by Indonesian researchers examines the various methods from DNA analysis, FTIR spectroscopic analysis, chromatography to electronic nose, that have been used to detect porcine DNA, pork, pork gelatine, and lard in meat products.

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This interesting overview of methods to detect adulteration of different spices is presented in an easy understable way. There is an interview with a Belgian spice trader outlining the scale of the problem. The various authenticity methods used to detect spice adulteration are described by scientists at the European Commission's Joint  Research Centre - Fraud Detection and Prevention Unit in Geel, Belgium.

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3674633424?profile=RESIZE_710xThe Royal Society of Chemistry has published a book on 'DNA Techniques to Verify Food Authenticity'                       (https://doi.org/10.1039/9781788016025), which includes a chapter (number 26) on the Food Authenticity Network.

 About the book:

The food supply chain needs to reassure consumers and businesses about the safety and standards of food. Global estimates of the cost of food fraud to economies run into billions of dollars hence a huge surge in interest in food authenticity and means of detecting and preventing food fraud and food crime. Approaches targeting DNA markers have assumed a pre-eminence.

This book is the most comprehensive and timely collection of material from those working at the forefront of DNA techniques applied to food authenticity. Addressing the new field of analytical molecular biology as it combines the quality assurance rigour of analytical chemistry with DNA techniques, it introduces the science behind DNA as a target analyte, its extraction, amplification, detection and quantitation as applied to the detection of food fraud and food crime. 

Making the link with traditional forensic DNA profiling and describing emerging and cutting-edge techniques such as next generation sequencing, this book presents real-world case studies from a wide perspective including from analytical service providers, industry, enforcement agencies and academics.  It will appeal to food testing laboratories worldwide, who are just starting to use these techniques and students of molecular biology, food science and food integrity. Food policy professionals and regulatory organisations who will be using these techniques to back up legislation and regulation will find the text invaluable. Those in the food industry in regulatory and technical roles will want to have this book on their desks.


Author information:

The editors possess unrivalled expertise and are keen to describe and foster advances in the key area of DNA techniques applied to food authenticity. Dr Lucy Foster is an experienced food scientist, and head of food research including authenticity research at Defra, for many years commissioning studies of global reach. Dr Malcolm Burns is an internationally recognised molecular biologist and expert in DNA quantitation. Dr Michael Walker was a founder board member of the Food Standards Agency, a subject matter expert to the Elliott Review, is Head of the Office of the Government Chemist, and, with a thriving consulting practice, is an experienced expert witness.


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Danish researchers have published a review of the wide range of analytical methods, which aim to quantify meat species in meat products and their limits of detection (LOD). The review attempts to address in particular, the problems associated with a correlation from quantitative DNA based results to meat content (w/w). The aim is to make researchers aware of the problems of expressing DNA results as meat content (w/w) in order to find better alternatives. 

1337352593?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the full paper

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In this article, untargeted methods capable determining the authenticity of foods are reviewed. The article also reviews and discusses a more specific focus on methods for detecting fish adulteration/substitution and involving sensory, physicochemical, DNA-based, chromatographic and spectroscopic measurements, combined with chemometric tools.
                      Read the full review at: untargeted methods for fish

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Sylvain Charlebois (Food Institute, University of Guelph) discusses some of the fraud and counterfeit problems occurring in the Canadian Food Market, and the methodology that the University of Guelph and others may develop to control them.

Read the full article at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-commentary/counterfeit-products-threatening-the-food-industrys-delicate-balance/article29220689/

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