The meat trade hasn’t had a good reputation since the horsemeat scandal that burst into headlines in 2013. The scandal has left such a mark that meat speciation, adulteration and authenticity are still high-profile topics today. Think about it from a consumer’s perspective. Why would you spend more money on specialty beef when it could be…beaver, or even horsemeat?
A study in 2015 from a top-ranked western University tested ground and game meat samples from the United States. What they discovered might surprise you. Some were mislabeled, while others contained additional types of meat species like the ones I mentioned previously. Recently, the researchers at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) found 14% of sausages in selected grocery stores across the country were mislabeled and cross-species contaminated. While that’s a decrease from the year before, the problem remains.
Despite the shock value of these findings, they give me an opportunity to talk about mass spectrometry as the testing method of choice when it comes to detecting meat species. In the Chapman University study, for example, samples were collected and tested using a combination of DNA barcoding and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). My problem with this method is that DNA can be easily disrupted or removed during standard meat processing and food manufacturing. As a result, horse tissue and other contaminants remain undetected in food samples—despite the strong presence of the contaminating proteins.
Trustworthy meat producers desire reliable testing methods. Therefore, if your lab is new to food fraud analysis or is interested in improvements, I am here to say that mass spectrometry is not only easier to use than you think—it’s much more precise. I have talked to people in labs where they believe they do not have the expertise to develop and run methods.
While that might be true, SCIEX has developed assays for the simultaneous detection of horse meat at low levels in beef. The LC-MS/MS approach has the advantage of being a potential multi-species screen—unlike ELISA which requires different kits to detect individual meat species. Our team has taken things a step further and has developed a verified method to help you identify the range of animal species in raw or cooked products across a variety of food and feed matrices.
In a nutshell, the key advantages of this solution are that it is:
- Highly selective to identify peptide markers and other contaminants in meat samples
- Sensitive enough to detect peptides across multiple meat species at a threshold detection limit of 1% w/w (10 mg/g)
- A versatile, verified method that can be applied to the SCIEX QTRAP® 4500 LC-MS/MS System or the QTRAP® 6500+ LC-MS/MS System, based on your sensitivity requirements