Last updated: February 8, 2013 10:41 pm

DNA testers latch on to scandal

There was one industry quick out of the gates when the horse meat scandal broke: DNA testing laboratories. Just as Jeremy Kyle, doyenne of daytime TV, spawned an industry in discount DIY paternity tests, companies offering cheaper, less vigorously accredited DNA tests were on the phone to meat processors within days.

“Since horse meat was exposed, a number of people out there are claiming to be able to provide rapid tests at reasonable costs,” said Andrew Caines, group technical director at Cranswick, a meat supplier.

Despite increased consumption of processed foods, government testing has been on a downward trend, falling 13 per cent in each of the past two years.

So-called Elisa tests, which detect contamination above 1-2 per cent, are the most commonplace, cost £25, and can be done in labs or on the factory floor.

A change in the colour of liquid in a plastic tube, akin to a home pregnancy test, indicates the presence of contamination.

DNA tests, by contrast, detect down to 0.1 per cent. But they cost more – £150 to £300 – and can test for only one species at a time.

So one test can say there’s no horse, but you would need to spend another £300 to get an answer on, say, sparrow, the somewhat random example which occurred during a recent Commons committee hearing.

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