Genetic developments help ensure food safety

Food safety and authenticity issues could be assisted by developments with whole-genome sequencing, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA). 

The organisation recently published the new Science Report by chief scientific adviser, professor Guy Poppy, which investigates how whole-genome sequencing – the science of mapping the genetic make-up of micro-organisms – can aid the FSA’s work to ensure that food is safe for consumption and authentic.

“This report focuses on the exciting developments in whole-genome sequencing, and how this powerful and rapidly developing technology is being increasingly utilised by the FSA,” commented Poppy.

“Whole-genome sequencing is a great example of how the FSA can use state of the art technology to ensure that we deliver food we can trust for UK citizens. It’s fast, precise and, if implemented widely, cheap. The technology is already being utilised by the FSA and PHE [Public Health England] to aid outbreak investigations; but it has a multitude of other potential applications in relation to food.”

The paper highlights how the increasing speed and decreasing costs of whole-genome sequencing has changed scientists’ capabilities to investigate foodborne disease outbreaks by identifying concerns faster and helping control outbreaks. It also discusses how whole-genome sequencing is being utilised in other countries to track certain pathogens like listeria, whilst examining its potential for checking food authenticity.

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