This article is a summary of an article from the Irish Times that reported on a new DNA tool, developed by the FSAI that will enhance the ability to fight food fraud. It enables the entire genetic content of a food to be revealed without any prior knowledge or suspicion of what may or may not be present in that food.
Being able to scan the entire DNA content of food means “it will be difficult to substitute or hide an ingredient without being detected”, says FSAI chief executive Dr Pamela Byrne.
The device uses “next-generation sequencing” and it can detect adulterations in plant ingredients. (Prior to this, the FSAI used a less powerful tool, known as “targeted testing”). The new tool will be used to identify any non-declarations or misdeclarations of any ingredients. This will enable food safety regulators and the food industry to protect against fraud and risks to consumer health. Food fraud can put consumers with allergies at a serious health risk. For example, during a poor hazelnut harvest, hazelnuts were fraudulently replaced with undeclared peanuts in a food product.
It is likely to be rolled out in the testing of beef and poultry across the EU.
The rest of the article reflects on the events that occurred in the 20 years of the FSAI’s history. The FSAI was set up in 1999 during the height of the BSE crisis and it was the first of it’s kind in Europe. The FSAI is linked to the European Food Safety Authority and this link between the two agencies allows for a rapid alert and response system in the face of any food safety issues.
The chief executive of the FSAI, Pamela Byrne, also reflects on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. The key future challenges include coping with Brexit and maintaining food safety in light of the growing reliance by consumers on convenience foods.
The original article also includes statistics from a survey of 1000 respondents on consumer attitudes to food safety. These research findings are crucial to increasing the FSAI’s knowledge of known risks and in identifying emerging food safety risks, according to Ms Byrne.