Modern DNA sequencing techniques have been turned toward creating a
highly sensitive, quantifiable analysis of animal, plant, and microbial substances present in foodstuffs.
In pilot studies, the researchers were able to use their new DNA method to detect the presence of a 1% content of horse meat in products and to determine the actual amount with a high level of precision.
The researchers even found slight traces of the DNA of added mustard, lupin, and soy in a test sausage prepared for calibration purposes, something that could also be of interest with regard to allergy testing of foods.
Because of its potential, the method – dubbed 'All-Food-Seq' by its developers – has already attracted the attention of food inspection experts and will be validated in comparison with conventional detection techniques in the near future.
"The innovative aspect in comparison with conventional DNA detection methods such as polymerase chain reaction, or PCR for short, is that by means of bioinformatic analysis of all biological DNA data available worldwide we can identify the presence of material from species that we would not otherwise expect. And, using a simple digital method of counting short snippets of DNA, we will also probably be able to determine the relative incidence of individual species-related material more precisely than was previously the case," explained molecular geneticist Professor Dr. Thomas Hankeln of the Institute of Molecular Genetics, Genetic Security Research and Consulting at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, who developed the method in collaboration with bioinformaticist Professor Bertil Schmidt, Ph.D. and colleagues at the German and Swiss food control authorities.