Scientists have developed a new method that can identify whether a hot dog contains beef or pork, an advance that may be especially important for people who do not eat certain types of meats.
Instances of food adulteration have caused several global scandals in recent years, researchers said. Some caused serious illness and even death, such as the addition of melamine to baby formula in China, they said. Other incidents did not affect people's health but might have violated cultural or religious dietary restrictions, particularly with respect to the kinds of meat that adherents can consume.
Currently, testing the authenticity of a meat product involves sampling its DNA, amplifying the genetic material with the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and looking for certain markers. However, existing methods often only search for one, long DNA sequence, which could break down during food processing and lead to false results.
Researchers including those from University of Malaya and International Islamic University in Malaysia wanted to come up with a more reliable approach. They developed a technique to look for pairs of short DNA sequences from beef, buffalo and pork in hot dogs. The team used the new approach on 20 beef franks that they bought in markets in Malaysia.
Testing showed their target sequences were stable under food processing conditions. The researchers also found that all of the hot dogs labelled as "beef" also contained buffalo meat.
The method could help prevent frankfurter fraud, which is important for those who can not eat certain types of meats, researchers said.
The research appears in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.