In the last issue of Hot Source we described NGS, how it works and what it is used for. This time we offer an overview of the aspects of everyday operations in the food industry that it can support.


Due diligence and vulnerability control plans form an integral part of any food operators’ day-to-day activity, whatever their size and scale. From traditional information sources, such as regulatory standards and guidance documents, to electronic web-based knowledge, data sharing systems and networks or early warning mechanisms, there are myriad sources to help the industry fight economically motivated adulteration, also referred to as ‘food fraud’.

This of course is backed up with audits and certification schemes to help ensure safety and quality.

A new generation of supply chain management tools, such as Transparency-One, can build an in-depth image of a supply chain and monitor it, improving process control and management.

All these tools have an important part to play, but testing is the last line of defence. Traditionally, the industry has relied on real time PCR and ELISA testing, but there are limitations – such as a constrained set of proteins available. NGS offers an untargeted approach to DNA testing – it identifies not just whether one specific ingredient is present in a sample, but all ingredients in the sample.

Flexibility brings success

With the increasing accessibility of NGS the industry needs to be more flexible. Operators need to confirm that the chosen due diligence methods continue to deliver results, whatever the circumstances – such as a new factory lay out challenging cross contamination, or a new logistics supplier. Does your due diligence guarantee the minimum criteria against which you assess safety?  Do you want more information than the minimum?

Everyday applications for NGS

NGS testing can support testing and verification across the whole supply chain, this is because NGS evaluates all DNA. It can prove not only the presence of the expected ingredient, but also any other DNA that is present. Here are a few examples of NGS in action:

  • Herbs & spices: Frequently contaminated, often by ‘weeds’ that are present where the herb grows, NGS can identify the DNA of rogue plants and our experts can then determine whether they are of poisonous species, assuring consumer safety.
  • Coffee beans: Predominantly used to look for different ingredients, NGS also supports the identification of specific species. We are helping customers to verify that coffee beans are Arabica rather than Robusta (canephora), and that Soy (which may cause risk of allergy issues if not labeled) is not present.
  • Honey: With the recent Joint Research Committee publication driving interest in testing, NGS will use pollen to confirm the flower types and honey authenticity.
  • Fish: In our recent research, studying samples of processed fish labeled as cod and taken from restaurants, fast food outlets, local stores and retailers, more than 40% was mislabeled when an official inspection or audit scheme was not in place.
  • Meat: In a recent case, in Spain, suspicions were raised about meat products with labels stating that the main ingredient was beef. However, on investigation, a high percentage of the products were discovered to contain either pork, bread, fats or soy. With NGS, testing carried out on a single sample can identify not only the ‘main’ ingredient, but all ingredients, including any that may not be listed.

Unique workflow

To meet the needs of due diligence and vulnerability control plans, SGS has developed a unique workflow combining a broad range of short DNA fragments with PCR amplification to detect thousands of species with specific in-house software for data analysis. Using this workflow, food products can be analyzed for almost all types of organisms and the workflow is so broad that virtually any kind of food product can be analyzed, as long as it still contains DNA.

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For the complete range of SGS services and support visit SGS Food and Safety.

For further information contact:

Charon Willis
Global Food Testing Business Development Manager
t: +44 (0)20 3008 7860