Problems with identifying meat? The answer is to check the barcode

Feb 28, 2013
Do you want to know what you are eating? DNA barcodes can be used to identify even very closely related species, finds an article published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Investigative Genetics. Credit: Maria E D'Amato, Evguenia Alechine, Kevin W Cloete, Sean Davison and Daniel Corach

Want to know what you are eating? DNA barcodes can be used to identify even very closely related species, finds an article published in BioMed Central's open access journal Investigative Genetics. Results from the study show that the labelling of game meat in South Africa is very poor with different species being substituted almost 80% of the time.

In South Africa game meat biltong (air dried strips) is big business with over 10,000 wildlife farms and is supplemented by private hunting. This meat is considered to be 'healthier' than beef because it is lower in fat and cholesterol and perceived to be lower in additives.

Using mitochondrial COI and cytb sequencing, researchers analysed samples of game meat from supermarkets, wholesalers and other outlets and compared them to known samples and library sequences. From 146 samples over 100 were mislabelled.

All the beef samples were correct, but for the most badly labelled case 92% of kudu was a different species. Only 24% of springbok and biltong was actually springbok or ostrich. The rest was horse, impala, hartebeest, , waterbok, eland, gemsbok, duiker, giraffe, kangaroo, lamb, pork or beef. Worryingly one sample labelled zebra was actually mountain zebra, a 'red listed' species threatened with extinction.

Maria Eugenia D'Amato from the University of the Western Cape commented, "The delivery of unidentifiable animal carcasses to market and the general lack of regulations increases the chances of species mislabelling and fraud. This has implications for species safety but also has cultural and religious implications. This technique is also able to provide new information about the identity of animals and meant that we found several animals whose DNA had been misidentified in the scientific libraries."

Explore further: Sniffing out a partner at a London pheromone party

More information: Where is the game? Wild meat products authentication in South Africa: a case study. Maria E D'Amato, Evguenia Alechine, Kevin W Cloete, Sean Davison and Daniel Corach, Investigative Genetics (in press)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

EU says too early to impose meat labelling

Feb 12, 2013

The European Commission said Tuesday it is too early to require labelling on meat used in processed foods despite growing uproar over horse meat being passed off as beef in frozen hamburgers and lasagne.

Barcoding endangered sea turtles

Sep 14, 2009

Conservation geneticists who study sea turtles have a new tool to help track this highly migratory and endangered group of marine animals: DNA barcodes. DNA barcodes are short genetic sequences that efficiently ...

Recommended for you

How to win a Tour de France sprint

Jul 22, 2014

The final dash to the line in a Tour de France sprint finish may appear to the bystander to be a mess of bodies trying to cram into the width of a road, but there is a high degree of strategy involved. It ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ScooterG
1 / 5 (1) Feb 28, 2013
Results from the study show that the labelling of game meat in South Africa is very poor with different species being substituted almost 80% of the time.

Is anyone surprised by this?
lee_pool
not rated yet Mar 01, 2013
Hi

Could you please provide a link to the article from which this 'report' comes? The `Provided by BioMed Central` does not lead to the article...