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Advanced forensics tools for food safety and sports doping drug monitoring and control

New biological profiling methods to improve the control and monitoring of banned drug use in animals and ensure increased food safety and animal welfare standards.
Advanced forensics tools for food safety and sports doping drug monitoring and control
There is a concerted EU effort to move away from maximising food output towards improved production efficiency and ensuring food safety and quality. Part of this challenge lies in monitoring and controlling the administration of legal and illegal drugs to animals destined for food production.

The EU-funded DETECH21 (Developing New Technologies to meet 21st Century Demands in Animal Forensics) project developed new forensic testing services based on metabolomics profiling to identify the misuse of substances and drugs in bovine and equine animals. It exploited a range of disciplines such as high resolution metabolomics profiling, bioinformatics processing, and targeted mass spectrometric analysis to create new metabolomics-based methods to rapidly screen biological matrices and identify suspect treated animals.

Metabolomics profiling, which thoroughly identifies small molecules in biological samples, improves upon current testing programmes which rely on direct drug detection, as it monitors indicative biological and metabolic responses to drug administrations that can persist even after administered drugs have been eliminated. This approach offers valuable indirect evidence of illegal or unintentional administration of compounds to animals, supporting food safety and animal welfare monitoring more effectively.

In this context, the project delivered untargeted global metabolomics profiling methods and models for predictive identification of drug use in bovine or equine animals. This was achieved through development of indicative panels of urinary and blood metabolite markers of animal exposure to illicit or banned substances. The project facilitated the transfer of methods to monitor for these markers from high-resolution mass spectrometry instruments to more conventional instrumentation enabling easier and less expensive detection that can be used for routine testing purposes.

The technology is set to encourage competitiveness, market reach and profitability of analytical service providers, as well as enhance the ability to deliver higher quality produce and animals with the EU. Improved animal welfare and husbandry, reductions in costs and time associated with chemical analysis, and increased consumer confidence are just some of the benefits that are expected to emerge from this initiative.

Related information


Animal forensics, food safety, DETECH21, metabolomics profiling, animal welfare
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