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Review suggests that metabolomics may help to define chemical and microbiological contaminants in food products

16 November 2015

Metabolomics has appeared as a new field of research focused on the analysis of cell metabolites, which has gained enormous popularity in recent years. In a recent review, Farhana Pinu from the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research suggests that metabolomics could become the innovative frontier of food safety and quality research. Besides determining the comprehensive composition of food products, metabolomics has also been applied to study the stress responses and growth patterns of food pathogens.

Metabolomics represents a paradigm shift in the way that cell metabolites are analysed as it focuses on the development of robust analytical techniques including high resolution mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, capable of analysing as many metabolites as possible in both a targeted and non-targeted manner. Metabolomics is mainly a hypothesis-generating tool rather than a simple analytical approach for metabolite analysis. Therefore, the application of metabolomics combined with available genome sequencing data makes it a unique tool in modern system biology.

Metabolomics already shows its potential in different areas of food safety research because of the availability of highly efficient separation and detection techniques that make it suitable for the analysis of over 1000 metabolites (including pesticides) in various food products. However, the environmental impact on food safety has not gained as much attention as it should, and according to the author this is where an unbiased and global metabolomics approach can play a vital role by unravelling novel metabolites and pathways that might hold the key to new methodologies to monitor food safety.

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