Thermo Fisher Scientific is working with governmental, industry, and contract testing laboratories to create a standard dataset that will accelerate the use of next-generation sequencing (NGS) in food authenticity by giving analyzers the ability to test with confidence.
The pioneering NGS method, which detects multi-species DNA in food and ingredient samples, 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.
But while it is a subject of ISO Technical Committee 34/SC 16, there is currently no gold standard method of introducing next generation sequencing to food authenticity testing. With no standardized 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. These organizations 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.
Mario Gadanho, R&D Senior Staff Scientist at Thermo Fisher said: “Having confidence in the authenticity of your food ingredients is essential to protect your brand against food fraud. NGS technology has the potential to give manufacturers and retailers the confidence they need – but, until now, laboratories have lacked the frameworks, techniques, and resources to embrace it. We’re confident that this inter-lab study will move the industry closer to a gold standard for NGS food authenticity testing by creating a robust dataset that spans meat, fish, and plant products.
“We want to thank everyone taking part in this landmark study that will take next-generation sequencing to new levels.”
Maria de Jesus Tavares, Diretora do Departamento de Riscos Alimentares e Laboratórios at ASAE (Autoridade de Segurança Alimentar e Económica), 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 mislabeling. ASAE, as an Economic and Food Safety Authority, believes that conducting and maintaining strict market surveillance is an essential tool for tackling food fraud and ensures consumers’ protection. So, in this field, it is relevant to bring new technology into routine use. 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.”
Roberta Pellesi, HACCP and Emerged Risk Manager, at Barilla Group, said: “NGS technology represents a step-change in food authenticity testing: this new way of testing can provide the authenticity needed for raw materials to guarantee a high-quality finished product. Companies like ours are proud to be part of this NGS technology inter-laboratory study.”