DNA analysis of food and feed: it’s not only about genetic modification
By Philipp Hauri, Eurofins GeneScan, Germany
The first association with DNA analysis in food & feed will most probably be testing for genetically modified plants. But the analytical method, real time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has other important fields of application. New regulations and public awareness are drawing attention to other kinds of unwanted DNA in food and feed.
With Regulation 1331/2008, in force since September 2011, the European Union has set a legal framework for food enzymes and additives. It states that products purified from genetically modified microorganisms (GMM) have to be analysed for recombinant residual host cell DNA by quantitative PCR. These products, which were not previously regulated, now have to be assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) before being allowed to the market. In feed additives, an EFSA guidance document from 2008 recommends testing for residual recombinant DNA. The clean-up process has to be presented to the EFSA, for both product groups. But the analysis is also important for quality assurance from production batch to finished product.
Another important field of application is species identification in food samples. While undetectable by chemical or sensory means, DNA traces of a contaminating species can be revealed by PCR. The most prevalent applications are:
- Check of composition of processed food and feed, e.g. absence of porcine DNA to check Halal claims
- Check of species varieties for authenticity claims e.g. basmati rice
- Purity of tissue extracts like gelatins, collagens or hyaluron
- Compliance of raw materials with the product specifications
The Eurofins Group has several highly specialised laboratories for species identification. As a Competence Centre for GMO testing, Eurofins GeneScan has over 10 years of experience in residual DNA analysis as well as in the extraction of trace amounts of DNA and is able to develop customer-specific solutions for all PCR applications.