Identification of specific molecular markers

FOSQ aims to develop tests to detect potential contaminants or frauds in food products based on the identification of specific molecular markers. The methods determined in this program give sensitive and robust technical means to certify the safety and traceability of food products, which plays a critical role in human health. FOSQ is centered on the two critical aspects of the development of such methods: the identification of molecular markers and the optimization of sample preparation.

Food products contain a tremendous amount of molecules that can be used to identify its ingredients and potential contaminants. These markers comprise DNA fragments, which are specific to each organism present in meals, for example key ingredients or their contaminants – such as pathogenic bacteria. With the recent improvements of mass spectrometry and computation techniques, it is now possible to analyze molecules present in food products at picomolar levels. Such techniques allow, for example, to distinguish between fresh and defrost fishes by comparing their molecular content and thereby provide precious insights in the safety of food products.

Moreover, food products are often heavily modified during their production, in particular by heat and mechanical treatments when they are cooked or during their sterilization. This can lead to partial degradation of the markers used to test them. To cope with that, our researchers make use of biochemical techniques to develop innovative sample preparation techniques aimed at stabilizing and purifying the molecules of interest.

Two new industrial partners have joined the center, contributing to the development of the FOSQ program thanks to their advanced technologies:

  • The "QX200 Droplet Digital PCR" platform from Bio-Rad, identifies abnormalities of the genetic code can be identified with an unmatched detection threshold.
  • The "Synapt G2-Si" mass spectrometer from Waters is an innovative and revolutionary instrument used for characterizing complex mixtures and molecules such as proteins.

In summary, molecular assays developed in the FOSQ research activities give sensitive and unbiased means of detecting contaminants - such as antibiotics, GMOs – and providing evidence of authenticity – identification of key ingredients – even in highly processed food products.