Faster tools for food safety and fish identification

A NEW project to verify the accuracy of food labelling, and to quickly identify strains of salmonella, will see Agilent Technologies develop new tests based on mass spectrometry and lab-on-chip techniques, under an agreement with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Announced today, the project will see a new assay panel developed so that the specific sub-type of salmonella can be quickly identified following new cases of food poisoning. Quick determination of the salmonella strain can help narrow down the possible sources of infection, allowing regulators to home-in on the likely candidates and – hopefully – reduce the severity of the outbreak. The plan is to develop a genotype library of known salmonella varieties, using mass spectrometry, for rapid comparison to new samples.

A second aspect of the project involves Agilent and the US FDA with the UK-based Campden BRI laboratory to develop a rapid method to identify fish species in order to verify that correct labelling has been applied. Fish may be deliberately mis-labelled in order to sidestep tariffs or quota restrictions, or to pass off less valuable meat as expensive species. Once head, tail, and skin have been removed, the identification of specific fish species is a difficult task.

The new project will develop Agilent’s lab-on-a-chip DNA analysis technique to create a new test which, the partners say, will be fast enough and cheap enough to be used routinely in many types of laboratory. The lab-on-a-chip method uses restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP), a DNA analysis technique.

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