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Could this lab technique be a key breakthrough in food safety?

Aly El Sheikha considers the possible use of PCR-DGGE as a tracing tool in the food supply chain as total transparency becomes ever more important.

The intensification and industrialisation of agriculture and animal production should keep pace with the world’s population growth to meet the increasing demand for food. This will no doubt have an impact on food safety, presenting both opportunity and challenges, and placing greater responsibility onto food manufacturers and handlers.

Local incidents can rapidly escalate to international emergencies, due to the wide range of food distributed across borders. In the past decade, several dangerous foodborne disease outbreaks have occurred, often amplified by globalised trade. As reported by WHO,1 one in 10 people in the world (600 million people) fall sick after eating contaminated food and 420,000 die every year. Economically, $110 billion is lost annually in productivity and medical expenses as a result of unsafe food in low- and middle-income countries.

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