12 January - 20 June 2016

Identifying buffalo meat

7 May 14

Researchers from the Veterinary Research Institute in Sri Lanka claim to have developed a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) assay suitable for differentiating buffalo meat from other local animal species (Ceylon spotted deer, Ceylon sambhur, cow, goat, pig and sheep).

Primer sequences were designed based on a published sequence of buffalo mitochondrial DNA (the cytochrome b gene) and used to amplify DNA samples from four buffalo breeds (Murrah, Nili-Ravi, Surti and local), producing a characteristic band. This band did not appear in the results when DNA samples from the non-buffalo species listed above, or human DNA, was used.

When the primers were tested with rotten buffalo meat, dried buffalo meat, and meat boiled for 40 minutes to simulate normal cooking conditions, DNA amplification still occurred and the band was produced.

The researchers embarked upon these experiments as there was a local need to be able to identify illegal buffalo meat. Buffalo are a protected animal in Sri Lanka, and their slaughter is forbidden; however, the authors note that it still regularly occurs, and that buffalo meat is sometimes sold mislabelled. They state that the lack of a means of identifying illegal buffalo meat has been a setback in instigating legal proceedings, and that their new method - especially given its effectiveness in identifying even cooked, rotten and dried meat - may be of use in tackling the problem.

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