Test strip detects prohibited meats in Halal food

BANGKOK: Researchers at Chulalongkorn University’s Halal Science Center have developed an all-in-one strip test to quickly detect the DNA of five forbidden meats in a single test.

Food tainted with certain types of meat is forbidden by Islamic dietary law and is a major concern for Muslims, with surveys showing that pork can regularly be found mixed into beef in Thailand and other countries. These concerns motivated the Halal Science Center to invent a nucleic acid lateral flow assay (strip test) to detect foreign meat contamination, which consumers and food manufacturers can perform by themselves.

The strip test is a DNA technology, based on the principle of chromatography and hybridisation, using a membrane test strip made from nylon or nitrocellulose that allows a solution to flow through its porous surface freely. These membrane strips have a probe affixed to the surface at a specific location. When the multiplex PCR-amplified target DNA solution from food samples flows through the immobilised probes, coagulation occurs and forms colour bands on the chromogenic membrane (strip).

Apart from cutting processing time and cost, the strip test detects traces of five prohibited meats in food (pork, dog, cat, rodent and monkey) in one single test. The test can be used with raw and cooked food, as well as other ingredients.

“This innovation certainly addresses the concerns that Muslim consumers and the general public have,” said Anat Denyingyote, Assistant Director and Head of Science and Technology Services Group, Halal Science Center. “The strip test detects targeted DNA, so it can yield a 100% accurate result within three hours, which is much faster than sending the samples to the lab that normally takes one to five business days. Moreover, it is also easy to use, cheap and convenient.”

While strip test users are currently limited to business operators, Halal inspection agencies and a few consumers with a science background, the plan is to make the strip test kit widely available at a cost that is claimed to be 10 times cheaper than a forensic lab test.

“We want Muslim consumers, the public and food business operators to be able to perform the test on their own at a reduced cost for safety and their peace of mind,” Anat said.

“Next, we will further develop the strip test into a comprehensive test kit capable of yielding faster results that can be used for onsite detection.”

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