High profile scandals remind us that the food supply chain is extremely complex and global, and tracing the origin of ingredients is near impossible. The horsemeat incident in 2013, has shown how important is to check the safety and authenticity of meat. Using real-time PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) and PCR-RFLP (Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism), RSSL provides semi-quantitative and qualitative DNA testing for 20 species of meat and 50 species of fish. 

RSSL methods use either mitochondrial or nuclear DNA as a target. In general, it is agreed amongst experts that the use of mitochondrial DNA results in highly sensitive assays due to the abundance of the mitochondrial genome in cells. However, the amount of mitochondrial DNA varies between species and even between tissue types within the same species. Therefore, for quantitative purposes, nuclear DNA is the recommended target. Nuclear DNA is present as a single copy in each cell.

This enables us with the best possible trueness to test against the 0.1 % and 1 % threshold adopted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to distinguish between adventitious contamination and deliberate adulteration of meats.

Species Identification by Real-time PCR targeting nuclear DNA
Using real time PCR, RSSL can detect a sequence of DNA only found in the species of interest. This method can be used for the detection of:
  • Horse
  • Pig
  • Sheep
  • Goat
  • Cattle
  • Chicken
  • Turkey

The limit of detection of real-time PCR is either around 0.1 % or 1 %.

Species Identification by PCR-RFLP targeting mitochondrial DNA

Using PCR  we are able to detect and amplify DNA from animals.  This can then be analysed by RFLP (Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism). The RFLP can distinguish between animal species after splitting DNA into fragments using restriction enzymes and analysing the fragments with gel electrophoresis.

The limit of detection of PCR-RFLP is around 1 %

  • Buffalo
  • Dog
  • Hare
  • Mouse
  • Rat
  • Turkey
  • Cat
  • Duck
  • Horse
  • Ostrich
  • Red Deer
  • Chicken
  • Fallow Deer
  • Sheep
  • Pig
  • Roe Deer
  • Cow
  • Goat
  • Kangaroo
  • Rabbit

Fish Species identified by PCR-RFLP

Some examples are:

  • Brill
  • Cod (Atlantic)
  • Cod (Pacific)
  • Dab
  • Eel
  • European Flounder
  • Haddock
  • Hake (European)
  • Halibut
  • Hoki
  • Mackerel
  • Atlantic Pilchard (European)
  • Plaice (European)
  • Pollock Alaska
  • Roughy Orange
  • Salmon Atlantic
  • Salmon Cherry


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