Researchers use mass spectrometry to find meat contamination

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burgers-raw-frozen-meatGerman researchers have shown the value of mass spectrometry in identifying meat fraud.

Their findings follow the horse-meat scandal that gripped much of Europe last year. Millions of ready-made beef meals were pulled from supermarket freezers across Europe after it was found they were adulterated with horse meat.

The scandal revealed the complexities of the food chain and its vulnerability to rogue traders.

To help root out such fraudulent practices, food scientists and regulators have a couple of methods at their disposal. But these techniques occasionally yield false results, cannot detect more than one kind of adulterant or are ineffective at testing processed food, such as sausages.

To address these problems, Hans-Ulrich Humpf and his colleagues took another approach, building on the recent introduction of mass spectrometry for meat authentication.

The Germans, whose findings have been published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, say their approach represents a vast improvement over current methods.

Humpf, along with Christoph von Bargen and Jens Brockmeyer, designed a rapid and simple method for extracting and analyzing proteins from processed food to detect whether horse or pork meat is present.

When they tested their approach, they found it was sensitive enough to reliably detect as little as 0.24 percent horse or pork meat even in highly processed beef samples.

The researchers noted that food fraud was a major global economic problem. They also stressed that adding, for example, horse or pork to other meats without disclosure also can cause consumers to violate their ethical standards and religious practices.

Meat Authentication: A New HPLC–MS/MS Based Method for the Fast and Sensitive Detection of Horse and Pork in Highly Processed Food
Christoph von Bargen, Jens Brockmeyer, and Hans-Ulrich Humpf
J. Agric. Food Chem., Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/jf503468t

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