In its latest white paper ‘Understanding DNA-Based Test Methods’, SGS explores the topic of food safety, traceability and authenticity with a focus on the recent introduction of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) into the regulatory arena.


The white paper, produced for The Consumer Goods Forum CGF and its End-to-End Value Chain Learning Series, highlights how recent food fraud scandals mean it is imperative that the industry can identify the food ingredients that compose each food product. However, the more ingredients there are in a single food product the more complex the issue of traceability becomes, particularly if ingredients are sourced from different geographical origins, each with its own requirements.

As a direct result of food safety and authenticity issues, DNA-based analysis has come to the fore in recent years as a method of species identification. Among DNA based methods for food analysis, NGS is recognized as one of the most powerful and is changing the way the food industry can achieve traceability along the supply chain.

With NGS, a single DNA analysis can assess the whole composition of a food product, whether the content is meat, fish, seafood, plants, microbes, or any other DNA. This transforms the most common DNA-based method used today, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) which is limited to only delivering a result for the species targeted. If a PCR assessed product contains any additional species, besides those targeted, no information is available.

Significantly, the NGS method is based on DNA analysis through DNA sequencing, producing millions of individual DNA sequences that make it possible to identify species, including exotic species, in complex foods containing multiple ingredients. DNA sequencing is considered the gold standard for species identification and NGS is the only method that ensures the correct identification of species in complex foods. This explains why use of this method is increasing and is now being applied by all major laboratories for food authenticity analysis.

The advantages of NGS include:

  • Processed food samples containing multiple species can be analyzed
  • The method is not based on the detection of specific species
  • The result obtained is a list of all the species present in a sample
  • The database used for identification contains thousands of species and is not limited to a short list containing the most common species
  • The method employed is based on the most reliable method for identification of organisms – DNA sequencing
  • The method enables relative quantification of the DNA species detected, with a very low quantification/detection limit

Additionally, safety issues can be addressed by NGS, namely for allergens, pathogens and spoilage microbial analysis.

As no standardization of this method currently exists, extensive discussions and draft projects on the topic are being pursued by international standardization bodies, specifically the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) – recognized as the main entity for method standardization worldwide.

The white paper reveals clear evidence of the value of NGS for traceability along the food production process. Available in SGS labs worldwide for routine authenticity analysis, NGS technology is expected to become common place in the near future for addressing authenticity and microbial safety issues.

SGS helps enhance food safety and quality with a comprehensive and cost-effective set of control solutions including audits, certification, testing, inspection, technical solutions and training. These services can be stand alone or part of an integrated package of measures to assist the food sector in continuously improving the culture of food safety, quality and sustainable development.

Download the White Paper >

For further information, please contact:

Franck Pandiani
SGS Global Molecular Business Manager
t: +33 (0) 442 616 443

About SGS

SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 95,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 2,400 offices and laboratories around the world.