March 5, 2004 12:16 PM PST

DNA card takes the mystery out of meat

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Have you ever wondered what kind of meat exactly was inside that casserole? FoodExpert ID is here to help.

Developed by France's bioMerieux, the FoodExpert ID card can identify different animal products in food and feed samples, according to the company. The system works on both raw foods and foods that have been processed under high temperatures or pressures.

The system is largely based around a DNA testing chip, called the GeneChip, from Affymetrix. These types of chips can take samples of animal feed, human food or other biological materials, extract genetic information, and then match the results against integrated data or a database. Similar chips can be used to test blood.

"It is now possible, for example, not only to confirm that beef raviolis contain beef, but that they contain only beef, or to determine whether cod fillet fish fingers really contain only cod and not any other fish species," the company stated.

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While some applications for the card may exist for the consumer market, the larger opportunity lies in the food processing industry, according to the company. Mad Cow disease, among other diseases, is spread through tainted animal feed. By using the card, infected food can be identified before it is consumed by animals or humans.

"Our new test, FoodExpert-ID, is a real breakthrough for the food and feed industries. By providing rapid multispecies identification, FoodExpert-ID will help to improve the safety of food for human and animal consumption, thereby contributing to consumer health protection," Dr. Christophe Merieux, director of medical affairs and research at bioM?rieux, said in a statement.

The card can identify samples from 33 different vertebrae species.

Trials in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and France will likely take place later this year.


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