Using cutting-edge DNA-based technology, University of Guelph researchers have found mislabelling and cross-species contamination of meat ingredients in 20 per cent of the sausage samples selected from grocery stores across the country.
“This study now provides us with a baseline that we can use when working with meat processors to help ensure we have a high-quality and transparent food supply,” said Prof. Robert Hanner, who worked on the study with a team of researchers.
Published this week in Food Control, the study revealed a majority of the mislabelling occurred with sausage meat that was substituted with another type of meat. Some sausages labelled as beef also contained pork. Others labelled as chicken also contained turkey and one pork sausage sample contained horsemeat.
The study, which was funded by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, involved sausage packages labelled as containing only one type of meat.
The team of researchers used DNA bar-coding along with digital PCR technology to determine which meats were in the sausage samples.
“There is DNA in nearly every cell of every organism so bar-coding can be applied to products such as ground meats that would be difficult to identify with other means,” said Hanner. “In this study, bar-coding was used to identify the dominant meat type in the sausage samples.”
For beef, pork, chicken and turkey sausages, products were considered “contaminated” when more than one per cent of another meat was detected.
Findings revealed that five out of 15 sausage packages listed as turkey were entirely chicken.