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Speciation of Processed Meat and Fish Products Based on the Actin Multigene Family


Consumers are increasingly interested in the meat content of processed foods. As a result, there is an increased need for analytical procedures capable of quantitatively identifying the species of meat present in meat products.
Previously, immunochemical methods have been used. However, problems arise in using proteins for species determination in this context, due to the fact that antigens are often destroyed during processing. Whilst many of the DNA assays used in food industry are too specific to be used for general speciation, it is hoped that DNA techniques can be developed to produce a more reliable and robust assay for identification, and possibly quantification, of the meat species present.
This study aims to produce a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) assay, based on the actin gene family, capable of detecting and quantifying the species present in meat samples. The method relies on the fact that the actin gene family is conserved within species but shows significant differences between species. It is hoped that the technique can be refined to produce a multiplex PCR reaction that generates a characteristically sized band for each species - whereby the presence of the distinctive band would indicate the species was present.

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The study will begin by devising generic PCR primers around sequences from the actin genes that produce reproducible species specific fingerprints with both fresh and processed meat samples. It is hoped that for each species a characteristic band can be identified. The characteristic bands will be used to produce 'nested' primers to be used to produce single species identifier bands. The study will then go on to identify the thermal cycling conditions that primers for all the species could be used in combination in a multiplex PCR.
The resulting techniques will be verified on mixed species meat samples of known composition, both fresh and heat-treated. This should allow an assessment on the usefulness of the technique for quantification.
<p>Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the <a href="; target="_blank">Food Standards Agency Research webpage</a>.

University of Nottingham
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