Main research question/goal
How can we unequivocally detect the presence of vegetable ingredients of a defined plant species in processed food and food products? This is important to check the authenticity of food and feed. The AUTPLANT project focuses on the technique or methodology necessary for identifying species that can detect analytes that undergo little or no change during processing of the food ingredients. Protein-based analyses do not always suffice because the proteins degrade or the structure is changed as a result of the treatment process (e.g. heating). DNA-based techniques such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) are therefore needed as an alternative and reliable technique for species identification.Research approach
PCR is only possible when high quality DNA in sufficient quantities can be isolated from the (processed) product. We therefore focus on the search for suitable and/or custom DNA extraction protocols from various types of end-products. The first step in species identification studies is to use suitable DNA extraction protocols and adjust them for the specific matrices subject to such analyses. We then develop and validate the PCR methods for species identification. Examples include the search for efficient methods for differentiating mustard species (yellow, white and black mustard; Synapis spp.) and of canola or rapeseed (Brassica napus).Relevance/Valorisation
Developed and validated DNA extraction protocols and PCR methods are directly employable in routine detection of specific plant species in food and animal feed products of various composition. Such analysis applications can be useful when investigating potential fraud (read: not correctly reported ingredients). They can be useful also in the context of allergen detection, to implement the regulations about labelling of the 14 food products or product groups that can potentially elicit allergic reactions. The availability of reliable extraction protocols and PCR methodologies depents directly on the reliability of the analysis and the final decision made on the abovementioned questions (allergenicity, fraud, inaccurate labeling, ...) Depending on the width of the research question, peer-reviewed papers as well as communications or reports can flow from this demand-driven and up-to-date research.