CRISPR diagnostic verifies that meat is halal

Technology could be a cheaper, simpler alternative to PCR for food fraud surveillance


by Louisa Dalton, Chemical & Engineering News

September 10, 2021


Food scams targeting the halal consumer are growing with global Muslim populations. Halal meat should be pork-free and slaughtered in accordance with Muslim law, but sometimes manufacturers slip in pork and cheaper cuts of meat and sell it for the higher halal price. In summer 2020, food authorities in Thailand investigated a widespread scam of pork coated in ox blood sold as beef. To help track halal food fraud, researchers in China propose the first CRISPR/Cas-based test for pork that’s simpler, less expensive, and less prone to contamination than current genetic tests. (J. Agric. Food Chem. 2021, DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.1c03078).


In the US, if “halal” is written on a meat product, it means the manufacturer went through halal certification and usually sends a yearly meat sample to a laboratory for pork testing. The favored workhorse test for food authentication is quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), which amplifies and measures meat DNA. Although protein tests exist, proteins denature with processing and heat. DNA detection is more reliable, especially for cooked foods, says Ruijie Deng, an analytical chemist at Sichuan University who led the team the developed the diagnostic.


Yet qPCR requires expensive lab equipment and trained operators. A cheaper, easier DNA test would open the door to far more frequent testing, Deng says, for example, whenever a meat production line gets tweaked. Research groups and companies are evaluating CRISPR/Cas technology as the next generation in nucleic acid detection that could replace PCR...


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