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RTD info logoMagazine on European Research N°39 - November 2003   
 Tribology in the 'nano' age
 A dead end in 30 years
 Moulding public opinion – truth and myth
 Biocultural fervour
 A new ERA of research

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Title  Animal feed: separating the wheat from the chaff

Bullet War on antibiotics
The Simbag-Feed project (launched in March 2001 by eight partners in ten countries) concentrates on detecting illegal substances introduced into animal feed which pose health risks to humans. These include 'growth promoters' (carbadox and olaquindox) and five antibiotics (avoparcin, bacitracin-zinc, spiramycin, tylosin and virginiamycin) which are banned by the Union because their indirect ingestion, by eating 'treated' meat or fish, can increase our own bacterial resistance.

Scientists working on this project, which is now approaching completion, studied a multimodal screening procedure for banned products. This is based on microbiological inhibition, high-voltage electrophoresence and chromatography (TLC, HPLC) combined with mass spectography. The research is being carried out with the aid of some 30 European control laboratories and should culminate in the validation of new tests to be ratified by Community legislation. Towards this end, Simbag-Feed has compiled a databank of reference standards for banned substances. 

Bullet Taking the animal out of animal meal
Among the drastic measures taken since the BSE crisis, the Stratfeed project (which completed its work in the spring of this year) targeted the presence of mammalian tissue in cattle and sheep meal. The Centre de Recherches Agronomique de Gembloux (CRA) in Belgium coordinated the work of the ten public and private sector partners. The initiative aimed to detect any banned substances using three alternative methods: polymerase chain reaction (PCR), based on DNA analysis, spectrometry, near infrared microscopy (NIRM) and near infrared spectography (NIRS). The latter two methods consist of evaluating the particles of a given type in a sample. 'Our results show that the PCR and NIRM approaches permit a detection of up to 0.1% for the presence of animal meal and an identification of the species in question,' said Pierre Dardenne, a researcher at the CRA (see diagram). 'A new protocol and decision-making support mechanism is currently being validated. As to the NIRS method, that remains a test for rapid screening which is unreliable below 1% of prohibited constituents.'(1) The Stratfeed project also compiled a bank of the more than 2 000 reference samples used in the research. 

Discrimination between plant-based meals (flours), bonemeal and fischmealThe processing of spectral data obtained by near infrared microscopy (NIRM) makes it possible to identify the particles analysed on the basis of origin.  © Diagram: Pierre Dardenne, CRA, BE
Discrimination between plant-based meals (flours), bonemeal and fischmealThe processing of spectral data obtained by near infrared microscopy (NIRM) makes it possible to identify the particles analysed on the basis of origin.

© Diagram: Pierre Dardenne, CRA, BE

(1) The Stratfeed results will be presented at a symposium scheduled for the 16-18/06/2004 in Namur (BE).

Bullet Salmon: wild or farmed?
How to distinguish the true origins of a salmon? Can we be sure that the Scottish, Norwegian or Irish labels – and the price that goes with them – are real guarantees of origin? New European regulations introduced in 2002 make more complete information on this fish compulsory, especially as regards labelling. This is because fraudulent practices regarding the nature of the product (farmed or wild salmon) and place of origin have been found to exist. Such incidents are most common where local over-production causes prices to fall. However, only the connoisseurs are likely to taste the difference.

Using RMN spectography, chromatography and mass isotomic spectrometry to make statistical analyses of the elements present in the fatty acids, the five-partner Cofaws project (FR,IT, NO, and the UK), which completes its work in 2004, plans to develop a rigorous scientific tool for authenticating labels of origin.     

Bullet Uncontrolled designations
Contrary to the adage in vino veritas, wine is not always what it seems. The trickery concerns in particular the glycerol content. This is a natural ingredient produced by the fermenting process and – within legal limits – quantities of it can be added to improve the taste. The question is how to check that these limits are not exceeded? The Glycerol project is studying the chromatographic and spectrometry (GC – MS) tests currently used to distinguish and quantify, on the basis of carbon isotope ratios, the proportions of natural and added glycerol contained in wine. 
  • Glycerol (Determination of glycerol in wine – comparison and validation of existing methods).

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