Pioneering food safety techniques in Europe
A novel method of genetic fingerprinting, analysed and tested by more than 200 European laboratories, has been developed in conjunction with the Gaiker Technological Centre and enables the avoidance of fraud, thus guaranteeing safe foods for the consumer.
For their brand products the Eroski Group has developed and introduced a series of Food Safety control techniques and guarantees which are pioneer in Europe. This initiative started to be developed five years under the auspices of the GAIKER Technological Centre.
Maximum safety for the consumer is a philosophy that has taken the Eroski Group to develop a strategy for food safety control which goes beyond the parameters set down by legislation, enabling the control of pathogenic agents which pose a health risk and which, nevertheless, are not covered by current legislation.
The cost of this project has meant investment of 929,000€ in installations and in technology development and standardisation. To this end, the Eroski Group has co-operated with GAIKER in the introduction and utilisation of DNA techniques (molecular biology) based genetic fingerprinting. This technology is being applied with considerable success in a number of different sectors: development of new pharmaceutical drugs, individualised therapy, diagnostic tests, paternity identification and other police and forensic research, amongst others. Its diversity enables the detection of specific segments of the genetic code of microorganisms to limits that other techniques have not been able to reach. In this way, the Eroski Group has succeeded in developing a new instrument of control, more reliable and rapid, for the checking of safety in foodstuffs.
Likewise, the authentification of the raw materials used in the elaboration of foodstuffs is a challenge for any control laboratory. Also in a joint enterprise, the Eroski Group laboratories and the GAIKER Technological Centre have adapted the DNA techniques with the aim of strengthening them as reliable tools in the control of fraud.
In fact, the detection of adulterations or fraudulent substitutions is currently a headache for food standards laboratories, particularly so in those foodstuffs which have been subjected to processes which lead to the denaturation of their proteins. The new genetic fingerprinting techniques. Based on DNA analysis, enable the detection of specific sequences of species, allowing the authentification of fresh and processed products which lack recognisable morphological features, such as filleted fish or the presence of genetically modified ingredients.
Thus, the design and development of molecular biology techniques enables the authentification of food products and it can be used to check high quality products given that it enables the recognition of quality and personality of these by their origin and by their geographical and agricultural and climatic environments – wines, cheeses, virgin olive oil, hams, rice, meat sauces, honey and so on.
With the aim of validating these new control systems, the Central Science Laboratory (CSL) in Great Britain was called upon to help as well as the 200+ European control laboratories. All of these have tested for and demonstrated the trustworthiness and robustness of the newly-developed tools. Once validated, these techniques were introduced by the Eroski Group within its own food network, an outlet chain, which, in turn, has been accredited with ISO 17025.
Edorta Larrauri Teran
GAIKER, Centro Tecnológico
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