Archive: October 2014

Intelligence on undeclared meats shared

Close-up of magnifying glass focusing on two people

At a time, when the food industry is being encouraged to conduct sampling, testing and supervision of food supplies at all stages of the supply chain; the actions of one of the major food retailers, to share all findings from their own investigations should be applauded. It puts the needs of consumers before all others. Furthermore, in the Elliott Review Final Report published last month ‘Intelligence Gathering’ is one of eight integrated recommendations of the report, which also highlights the important role of analysis. It is understood that the retailer’s own DNA surveillance found that five products on their shelves contained undeclared meats (chicken, turkey and lamb DNA was detected), believed to be as a result of adventitious contamination from cross-over. It has been reported in the press that there was: up to 5% undeclared chicken and turkey in a pork sausage product; chicken DNA present in turkey slices; between 5 and 30% lamb in venison burgers; between 1 and 5% chicken in turkey and pork sausage slices; chicken and turkey DNA in a pork and beef sausage. Such incidents illustrate the importance of effective process controls and both the capability and limitations of analysis. The current analytical PCR approaches used detect species-specific DNA which, whilst helpful in identifying the undeclared meat species, can only estimate the levels present semi-quantitatively and this can be compromised by the degree of processing. In the two ranges of PCR kits offered by Bio-Check, up to 18 different species can be detected using a combination of end-point detection and real-time PCR techniques.  Whilst most are single species tests, some species can be detected together in a duplex reaction, which saves time. When testing complex and processed foods it is important to understand the capability of the PCR test to ensure it will be suitable. For example, single species detection of goat by the real-time method offered by Bio-Check detects a 96bp fragment which allows detection in highly processed products, plus the method is performed as a duplex reaction with an inhibition control to ensure reliable quantification at a limit of 0.1%

Posted in Speciation

Allergen levels: how low is low?


This is a question where the food industry would prefer some guidance in order to minimise the use of precautionary labels such that they are only used to protect sensitive consumers from levels which would otherwise trigger a problem. This month the Food Standards Agency announced that it had started a sampling and testing programme at 13 milling plants across the UK to investigate the presence of soya in wheat flour. It follows recent reports that wheat flour may contain soya. In a previous study by the National Association of British and Irish Millers in 2013 low levels were found. Based on evidence they have received to date the FSA believes that the levels of soya present are unlikely to pose a risk to people with a soya allergy and do not need precautionary labelling. The new testing programme is to verify this risk assessment and also the accuracy of information supplied to consumers on flour and flour based products. EFSA has been asked to deliver an evaluation of allergenic ingredients and is currently reviewing comments following a period of consultation before delivering a scientific opinion. Meanwhile food producers can refer to the allergen risk assessment tool, VITAL 2.0, and a reference dose that is based on an eliciting dose of an allergen at which a proportion of the allergic population would be likely to react, but does not identify a dose below which no allergic individual would react. In the case of soya when the reference dose is 1mg soya protein, this would equate to a level of 20ppm soya protein in a 50g portion. Detecting such levels of adventitious contamination should be possible with current ELISA methods, depending on the source and nature of the contaminant. For example, the Soya-Check ELISA will quantify soya flour at levels between 2 and 25ppm or 0.9 to 10ppm soya protein.  The results between different ELISAs can be different – for example due to the lack of reference materials used to assist calibration. Such analytical issues will need to be addressed before allergen thresholds can be introduced in order to ensure precise and accurate analytical results support the consistency required with such an approach to precautionary labelling.

Posted in Allergens

Horizon scanning


Information tweeted @BioCheckUK this last month:





Ø  Tesco admits its pork sausages contained chicken

Ø  Beneficial fungi may support crop cultivation

Ø  Undeclared meat found in kebabs during food sampling investigation

Ø  Food crime can kill & the fraudsters can get punished. A case that woke the US up to what can go wrong

Ø  Todmorden slaughterhouse admits to criminal charge connected to horsemeat scandal

Ø  Bold, underlined, italics or coloured? How to highlight allergens for FIC

Ø  Consumer confidence to be strengthened through new food crime unit

Ø  Elliott Review Final report published

 Follow us on Twitter to receive ‘up to the minute’ market information about food adulteration and food contaminant issues that could be important to your business.

Posted in About us

Food fraud / food crime

Bio-Check will be attending the following forthcoming events:

  • “Food fraud: advances in combating food and beverage crime”
    05 November 2014
    The Pavilion, NEC Complex (Lab Innovations Expo), Birmingham, B40 1NT
    Organised by Campden BRI   
    Click here for more details


  •  “Beating the cheats: Government Chemist 2014”
    th & 25th November 2014
    The Royal Society, Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG
    Organised by LGC  
    Click here for more details

Posted in About us