DNA testing kit checks foods for forbidden meats

It would certainly be upsetting to discover that the beef you had just eaten also contained rat meat. Such things are possible, though, which is why scientists have developed a DNA-based meat-testing kit.

Created at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, the technology was designed first and foremost with Muslims in mind, as they are forbidden by Islamic dietary laws from consuming pork or the flesh of carnivorous animals, among certain other types of meat. That said, people of many religions probably wouldn’t be wild about eating rat or dog meat, which the university claims is surreptitiously added to beef in some countries.

That’s where the new “nucleic acid lateral flow assay”-type kit comes in. Designed for use by both consumers and people working in the food industry, it incorporates nitrocellulose test strips on which a drop of a solution containing raw or cooked food is placed. Within three hours, bands on the strip will change color to indicate if traces of pig, dog, cat, rodent or monkey DNA are present.

The researchers state that by contrast, similar testing performed in a lab would take one to five business days to provide results. What’s more, they’re working on reducing the kit’s processing time further.

A diagram of the type of test strip used

Chulalongkorn University

Presently, the system is being used by business owners, halal inspection agencies and “a few consumers with a science background.” Plans do call for it to be made more widely available, however, priced at 300 to 500 baht (about US$10 to $16) – which the university claims is about one tenth the cost of lab tests.

Source: Chulalongkorn University

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