SPAIN, Madrid. Fraud in meat products has become, in recent years, a battle of the food industry and public health. Although there are numerous strategies to detect it, they are not sufficiently selective and sensitive to differentiate close animal species. A collaboration of experts has developed an electrochemical biosensor capable of detecting, in just one hour, processes of adulteration of beef with horse meat.
The multidisciplinary team found that better results were obtained in mitochondrial DNA fragments than in nuclear DNA because the former is more protected and better resistant to possible heat treatments.
These results are the result of collaboration between the Faculties of Chemistry and Biology of the UCM. While the team of Dr. Gallego has identified the specific fragment to be detected, designed the appropriate probe for it and contributed with his knowledge and experience in techniques of mitochondrial DNA extraction and preparation of mitochondrial lysates, the Department of Analytical Chemistry, led by Prof. Pingarrón, has designed an adequate electrochemical biosensor capable of satisfying the requirements of sensitivity and selectivity necessary to comply with current legislation for the detection of this type of adulteration. Most of the experimental work that has led to this development has been carried out by the PhD student Víctor Ruiz-Valdepeñas Montiel (with a Predoctoral contract funded by UCM) and the Master Student María Luisa Gutiérrez.
"In addition to moving to the identification of other mammalian DNAs, this methodology could be applied for both the detection of adulterations involving other animal meats and for screening purposes to identify all animal species present in a meat," points out José M. Pingarrón.