SGS acquires Biopremier stake and predicts NGS growth

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

SGS has acquired a 70% stake in a firm which specialises in molecular biology and DNA sequencing services in the food sector.

The firm partnered with Biopremier, headquartered in Lisbon, Portugal, at the start of the year​.

It has worked with them for many years and often co-operated on an informal basis.

Biopremier has technology based on Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) which enables species identification of meat, seafood, plants, allergens and microorganisms in food.

The firm was founded in 2003 and employs 30 people with an ISO 17025 accredited laboratory. The remaining 30% stays privately owned.

Supply chain security never been more important

Olivier Coppey, EVP at SGS told FoodQualityNews that food supply chain security has never been more important.

“Since the partnership between SGS and Biopremier began, we have introduced NGS services for food products, to identify species quickly and efficiently, for our global network of laboratories and clients," ​he said.

“SGS expects to utilize and grow its business related to food authenticity, using NGS technology as integral part of its laboratory services around the world and including this company.”

It added the acquisition would further support customers in fighting food fraud and verifying authenticity across the value chain. 

The Biopremier workflow enables identification of all species through DNA sequencing in any food product even those highly processed and which contain a mixture of ingredients.

Specific software enables fast analysis of results and several molecules were developed to ensure broad application of the workflow.

Using available NGS technology, one analysis generates a huge amount of data (millions of DNA sequences), the Biopremier software analyses these results to deliver a list of species in the tested food product.

If the product contains several ingredients (e.g. meat, fish, plants) a full list is obtained.

Food market welcomes untargeted analyis

Coppey said a major advantage was its untargeted nature.

Such is the sensitivity that it can even be used on canned food where DNA is usually highly damaged, because it works with very small DNA sequences,” ​he said.

“It does not target specific species because with one test sample any species can be detected, even exotic ones. Biopremier’s databases contain the DNA profiles of thousands of species. This means that rather than asking whether “X species is in this sample” we can answer the question “what is in my sample?"

“It enables food manufacturers to control the composition of the wide variety of raw materials and products along the production chain, in terms of traceability and quality control.”

Databases used by Biopremier include meat (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians), fish and seafood (mollusk and crustaceans), plants (including fruits, cereals, spices, herbs), bacteria and fungi (including molds, yeasts and mushrooms).

DNA sequencing is recognized as the gold standard for species identification, said the firm.

It will replace polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in the mid-term as it grows in testing volume.

“Almost all DNA-based methods rely on DNA sequences, as is the case with metagenomics (understanding complex microbial systems and using NGS for identification) and dPCR,” ​said Coppey. 

“Other chemical methods, including isotope analysis (mainly for geographic origin, not DNA based), are much more restricted by their databases for correct identification.

“Therefore, their application is much more limited – testing can only identify small groups of target species, it will not have an untargeted approach such as that achieved with DNA sequencing methods and more precisely NGS.”

In another acquisition, SGS bought a controlling stake in C-Labs, Chiasso, Switzerland for an undisclosed amount.

Founded this year, C-Labs adopts machine learning techniques with support of Swiss Artificial Intelligence Lab IDSIA (Istituto Dalle Molle di Studi sull'Intelligenza Artificiale).

The C-Labs platform is being developed within SGS, who said it uses human and technology elements to deliver actionable insights from data.

"This acquisition is a valuable contribution to our TIC 4.0 strategic initiative on digitalization and data, and an excellent complement to the partnership initiated earlier this year with Transparency-One,​” said Frankie Ng, CEO of SGS.

Opening of South Korea lab“

sgs south korea
Picture: SGS

Meanwhile, SGS has opened a food testing laboratory in Uiwang City, near Seoul, South Korea.

The 2,340 m2​ lab employs 53 staff and has been accredited as an official food laboratory by the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.

The lab offers food chemical testing, including for nutrition, vitamins, preservatives and sugars and contaminant testing for pesticide residues, heavy metals, animal drug residues, melamine, histamine, mycotoxins and PAHs.

It can also do microbiological limit test including identification, allergens, GMOs, norovirus and antibiotics effectiveness.

The site is accredited as an agricultural product testing lab by the National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service and a norovirus testing lab by the National Institute of Environmental Research.

It will provide testing, auditing, food label review, training and inspection services to companies in the agricultural and food industries in South Korea.

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