Horsemeat detection methods up to scratch

The various horsemeat detection methods used for beef authenticity tests are reliable and of equal sensitivity, according to a recent government study.

After 2013’s horsemeat scandal, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) carried out a survey to detect equine DNA in food samples. This Defra study on the Limit of Detection (LOD) of the methods used has been undertaken to ensure the data can be interpreted with confidence.

Public Analyst labs were free to use any method they chose, of which there was a wide selection, so Defra was keen to compare their levels of performance.

Three methods (the PCR-CE/FA0220 method, the Neogen BioKits method, and the PrimerDesign method) were assessed, and the report showed that “all have the potential and capability of reaching a limit of detection (LOD) of less than 0.1% w/w raw horse meat in a raw beef (meat) background... There is therefore a level playing field with respect to the approximate levels of analytical sensitivity of these three methods.

“Defra and the FSA could therefore have confidence in the approximate levels of sensitivity of these three methods as applied as part of the UK Horse Meat Survey exercise, and therefore have assurance that the probability of detecting the horse DNA target was approximately the same between the three methods”.

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