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InstantLabs to co-develop seafood species identification tests

By Joe Whitworth+

09-Apr-2014

InstantLab's Hunter Real-Time PCR system
InstantLab's Hunter Real-Time PCR system

InstantLabs has partnered with the University of Guelph to co-develop DNA-based seafood species identification tests to tackle marketplace fraud.

The firm plans to launch the kits within four months and said it brings a capability to market that does not yet exist.

The test kits will give importers, retailers who test their suppliers, government customs agents and others in the seafood industry the ability to confirm species identification using InstantLab's Hunter Real-Time PCR system.

Seafood fraud is often driven by economic adulteration, according to a report from an ocean conservation agency last year .

PCR test kits

Steven Guterman, CEO of InstantLabs, told FoodQualityNews.com that the first test will be seafood with potential to expand after that.

“Now, you have the sample and you use DNA sequencing which is a long and slow process, so you don’t do it that often. It can take a week from sample acquisition to the result acquisition,” he said.

“With the PCR test kits to identify the species, you say, is this a US catfish for example, that test sample acquisition to the result can be done in less than two hours.

"We are bringing a capability to market that does not exist. Seafood is an interesting market we know how much is imported and the potential for mis-labelling is millions and millions of pounds of fish."

InstantLabs already has a porcine and equine species test and the Hunter system is used to screen for foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli.

The portable device is also being used to detect contamination of food and consumer products with pork or horsemeat.

Guterman said the collaboration came about when both parties attended an industry gathering on seafood with Robert Hanner, associate professor at the University of Guelph, having the concept but wanting to commercialise it.

DNA testing tech

Hanner will work with primary investigator Amanda Naaum to develop the DNA testing technology.

The University of Guelph team has created the world's largest database of DNA sequences for seafood using barcodes to simplify testing and improve accuracy.

It is recognized for creating DNA bar coding that can be used to identify any species of plant or animal.

Guterman said the kits could be on the market in four months.

“The real issue is a combination of final designs for the test kits and the University of Guelph doing extensive validations to ensure the positives and negatives are accurately detected," he said.

“With seafood fraud the reasons are mostly economic but there is also the issue of the honest traders who ask how do I compete with someone overseas who is mislabelling product and selling it at half the price.”

The university said the collaboration was a ‘critical step forward’ in bringing DNA-based food authentication testing to critical points in the supply chain.

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