PCR Meat Speciation Testing Service

Meat speciation in raw and cooked meat products is an essential requirement to verify claims made on product labels. The Food Labelling Regulations of 1996 specifies the requirement that for all meat products, the product label must indicate the types of meat used in the recipe.

For many years, the food industry relied on the use of ELISA techniques to provide information regarding the authenticity of meat based products. This technique is suitable for screening, but is faced with the drawbacks of false positives due to cross reactivity of the antibodies used, and the inability to detect low levels of contamination.

The use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and DNA based techniques overcomes both sensitivity and specificity issues. SAL Ltd provide a comprehensive meat speciation testing service, using Real-Time PCR.

PCR is a technique for amplifying DNA. This means we can choose which gene, and therefore which species the polymerase amplifies in a mixed DNA sample, by adding small pieces of DNA complementary to the gene of interest. These small pieces of DNA are known as primers because they prime the DNA sample ready for the polymerase to bind and begin copying the gene.

PCR inhibitors, such as divalent cations and proteins, are completely removed in two efficient wash steps, leaving pure DNA to be eluted in either water or a buffer.

SAL Ltd quantify the meat species by the use of hydrolysis probes. The probes are fluorescently labelled DNA oligonucleotides. They are designed to bind to one of the primers during the PCR reaction and to give a fluorescent signal as an end point.

The results are then calculated using relative quantification data (using the delta Cq method). This technique enables determination of species presence/contamination qualitatively to levels as low as 0.1%.

Routine testing covers a wide range of species which include:

  • Horse
  • Sheep
  • Cow
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Pork
  • Rabbit
  • Goat

Standard reporting is within 10 working days with the availability of faster ‘turnaround times’. Based on the availability of reagents, other species can be tested for.

Additional information can be obtained from SAL, phone 01954 782791 or email cambsales@salltd.co.uk

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