Thermo Fisher helps fight food fraud through NGS

Thermo Fisher Scientific

Monday, 15 February, 2021

Thermo Fisher helps fight food fraud through NGS

A new international study plans to standardise next-generation sequencing (NGS) in food authenticity testing.

Thermo Fisher Scientific is working with governmental, industry and contract testing laboratories to create a standard dataset, which will give analysers better testing capabilities.

The NGS method detects multi-species DNA in food and ingredient samples and has the potential to tackle food fraud — a global problem that puts lives at risk, decimates reputations and costs the industry an estimated $10–$40 billion in losses each year.

The technology, called the Thermo Scientific NGS Food Authenticity Workflow, uses Ion Torrent NGS technology, analysis kits and extensive databases to enable an untargeted, multi-species screening approach.

While the rollout is subject to the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) guidelines, Thermo Fisher said there is currently no gold standard method of introducing NGS to food authenticity testing.

With no standardised approach to follow, laboratories are forced to use workarounds and locally developed workflows that are heavily reliant on in-house expertise and introduce the potential for error, the company said.

“These organisations work within complex, time-consuming, unvalidated frameworks that involve various analytical tools, reference libraries and result interpretation methods. It means they can often lack confidence in their results, in the integrity of ingredients and in regulatory compliance.”

Governmental laboratories from Germany, Italy and Austria, as well as industry leaders Nestlé Research Center and Barilla, are among those who have joined an inter-laboratory study of the Thermo Scientific NGS Food Authenticity Workflow for multi-species screening and identification. In all, 12 laboratories from multiple European countries are taking part, in a bid to demonstrate that the first end-to-end, simplified workflow can provide robust, consistent data within meat, fish and plant testing.

Each laboratory will receive multiple samples per target, including food and ingredients that have undergone different types of processing as well as pure material mixed at spiked DNA levels. Each laboratory will use the Thermo Scientific NGS Food Authenticity Workflow, consisting of the end-to-end consumables, instruments and software to carry out a single NGS test to detect and identify all species within the sample. Full results are expected within the coming months.

Maria de Jesus Tavares, Director of the Department of Food Risks and Laboratories at Authority for Food and Economic Security (ASAE), said incorrect information on food is a widespread problem, particularly in products with high economic value.

“Complex supply chains and market pressures can leave food manufacturers, retailers and consumers vulnerable to food fraud and mislabelling. ASAE believes that conducting and maintaining strict market surveillance is an essential tool for tackling food fraud and ensures consumers’ protection,” Tavares said.

“By taking part in this inter-laboratory study, we hope to contribute to the creation of a gold standard for NGS food authenticity testing as a tool to ensure consumer confidence and safety, and, of course, fair trade.”

Image credit: Thermo Fisher Scientific

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