Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Eating in a restaurant is becoming increasingly complicated with the customers being bombarded with threat perceptions regarding the "healthiness" of the menu and safety of the preparations offered by the caterer. Enjoying the food in one's favorite restaurant needs an atmosphere not marred by tension, suspicion and fear and that is why people frequent some restaurants regularly after experiencing the pleasure of eating good and safe food. Unfortunately time has changed, especially in western countries where "healthiness" has overtaken the eating quality of the foods served. Foods rich in salt or sugar or fat are being increasingly shunned because of the fear that they can damage the health from diseases like CVD, blood pressure, diabetes, over weight syndrome and obesity. Trust in the ability of a caterer to provide safe food is progressively ebbing and regulatory authorities are stepping in for safety enforcement. Latest fad that is being promoted is the DNA reading instruments which can trace the ingredients used in a food preparation and help the processor to decide on the quality of products like meat. When such "traceable" ingredients are used and when the customer is informed about it, the restaurants can charge premium prices for preparations made from them. Here is a take on this development that is taking place using modern electronic and biotechnology techniques.

The technology can determine not only where the meat came from, but also whether it's organic or Angus — or whatever the label says. Workers take DNA samples at processing and other places along the supply chain. The samples are gathered to determine the specific animals each product came from. Information kept by farmers and others involved in the raising and processing of the animals can be added to give a more complete history. DNA tracing also provides a faster way to identify the source of contaminated meat in the event of a recall, speeding the process from weeks or months to just hours. For example, it can identify the multiple animals whose parts were used in ground beef, which Holm said may be made from 1,000 different animals in a 10-pound box. The technology's ability to pinpoint particular animals could even reduce the amount of meat affected by recalls, which generally are tremendously costly for producers, suppliers and others. "In more recent years, food safety issues have become much more prominent in the supply chain here," said Ronan Loftus, co-founder of IdentiGEN Ltd., which is working with Performance Food Group on its DNA tracing. Countries like the United Kingdom and others turned to the technology because of food safety concerns, including worries about mad cow disease.

How far such "gimmicks" will impress the customers remains to be seen. Probably over the years DNA tracing may become an industry standard, especially for meat products which are accessed from different sources and it could be helpful for the industries, both processing as well as catering, to trace the source of meat supplied to them by the distributor. Besides this technique can also prevent false claims about the type of meat supplied and reveal whether good meat is adulterated with inferior ones.


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