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June 16, 2015

Why use Real-Time PCR for Species Verification Testing?

  • Food Fraud

By InstantLabs

By Deborah Cohen

Using the Hunter and our DNA identification test kits, you can quickly verify your products or ingredients. It lets you take the guess work out of the process. Below are two case studies that illustrate some of the benefits.
1. Nutraceuticals and Halal
A major concern among producers of Halal goods is the presence of pork in their products. Halal certifiers and foreign regulators are promoting—and in some cases requiring—food, health, and beauty products be screened for pork residue and confirmed pork-free. In one case, routine Halal testing in Malaysia showed traces of pork in a U.S. nutraceuticals manufacturer’s imported lot of dietary supplements. It was later determined that, while the manufacturer’s supplier of gelcaps had assured them that the gelcaps were made of vegetable gelatin, traces of pork gelatin had gotten into the batch.

The major U.S. nutraceuticals company called InstantLabs looking for a way to ensure their compliance with Halal regulations abroad. InstantLabs was able to set them up with the InstantID™ Pork Test for the Hunter® Real-Time PCR Instrument. They now test each lot of incoming ingredients and outgoing products to ensure their product purity.

2. Seafood and Truth in Labeling
Legally, only the Ictalurus genus of fish can be called catfish in the United States. These fish are native to the waters of the southeast United States and are a large economic driver to the southern economy. Recently, importers have been marketing fish from the Pangasius genus as catfish as well; this is a genus that is native to murkier Asian tributaries and is often farmed in unsanitary conditions. Because of the similarity of these fish in appearance, however, even many of the seasoned eyes within the fish trade cannot tell the difference once the fish is filleted and sold on supermarket shelves. The Pangasius genus, which is also known by the names of tra and basa, are generally sold at lower prices to undercut the sales of authentic U.S. catfish.

A new and broader-reaching labeling and inspection program soon to be launched by the USDA and FDA aims to clarify which fish is which for the American consumer. It requires that seafood importers start ensuring that the seafood they receive and pass on to the market is as they say it is. A seafood importer sourcing catfish with numerous suppliers had come to InstantLabs looking to streamline his species identification testing process. They had been sending product samples by courier from overseas to a sequencing company in the middle of the U.S. for testing, but this process was both expensive and time consuming. Instead, they instituted the InstantLabs InstantID™ Catfish Test on the Hunter® Real-Time PCR instrument, which allows them to confirm the species of their fish at the point of need and in less than 2 hours.

Species ID for Risk Management
Unless you can ensure what’s in your product from first ingredient to final product, your business’ reputation is assuming risk. Whether it’s from an honest labeling mistake, unintentional contamination, or intentional fraud, assuring the purity of your product is also a critical tool in supply chain risk management and should be used alongside other tools, such as traceability documentation, audit schemes, and critical control checkpoints.

InstantLabs can help you be sure. Using DNA testing, InstantLabs can give you the best testing methods available, allowing you to do your testing at the point of need and within your budget.

Write to us and let us know your case for doing product identification testing in your industry segment. We’re interested in sharing and understanding continuing needs of the market.

Deborah Cohen is InstantLabs’ Market Manager for North America and the Global Distribution Manager.