In recent years there have been a number of scandals involving fraudulent mislabelling of meat in the human food sales chain, in order for the perpetrators to gain criminal monetary advantage. One prominent example in 2013 was the horsemeat scandal in Europe, where food products labelled as “beef” were found to contain significant amounts of horsemeat.
To combat this activity it is important that reputable food producers and regulators have methods at their disposal to quickly and reliably check that a meat product is what it is claimed to be.
The traditional method for identification of meat species is Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and/or gene sequencing which, although highly specific, takes several hours to complete. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) tests are also used, they are cheaper and quicker than the PCR tests, they are still more expensive per test than the Pulsar™ method.
The Pulsar method has been developed in collaboration with the Institute of Food Research (IFR) in Norwich, UK. The method works by analysing the high resolution 60MHz NMR spectrum of oil or fat extracted from a meat sample to determine the fatty acid composition of the meat (see Pulsar Application Note 005). Different meat species exhibit different fatty acid profiles, and these profiles can be used to identify the meat species being tested. In practice, there is a certain amount of natural variation between samples of the same meat species, so a chemometrics approach has been developed to classify the fatty acid profiles and provide automated differentiation. The total measurement time, including sample preparation, is typically less than 5 minutes for most samples and up to an hour for very lean samples.
Fatty acid profiles of common meat species
Confirmation screen for meat speciation by NMR
Video - Meat speciation using NMR
Download the Pulsar Application Note
Speciation of Meat Using NMR
Pulsar provides a fast, convenient and reliable method for identifying meat species. Pulsar does not require liquid helium, liquid nitrogen, or compressed gases, and can be operated in a normal laboratory environment.
Pulsar is a high performance benchtop Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer operating at 60MHz proton frequency. It uses a permanent magnet, so does not require liquid nitrogen, liquid helium, or compressed gasses, and it has no special health and safety requirements. It can be operated in a normal analytical laboratory by non-NMR expert laboratory technicians.
A recently published article in Food Chemistry (published by Elsevier), co-authored by the Institute of Food Research, Norwich, UK, demonstrates Pulsar - 60 MHz 1H NMR as a screening tool for distinguishing beef from horse meat.
To download the “open access” paper, follow the link: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814614018391