How NGS and RT-PCR Are Making Halal Food Even Safer Listen with ReadSpeaker Our expertise

How NGS and RT-PCR Are Making Halal Food Even Safer

Halal food is steadily building up a healthy following among global consumers. Having exceeded USD 1.9 trillion in 2021, the global halal food market is estimated to reach nearly USD 4 trillion by 2027.

While Asia remains the largest market for halal food, it is no longer merely limited to Muslims as other consumers are also choosing it for its assurance of food safety, hygiene, and reliability. This demand has led to more stringent regulatory frameworks and standards being implemented in many markets. An example is Indonesia where the government introduced mandatory halal labeling and certification rules for all halal products.

Halal, which means lawful in Arabic, describes how meat is prepared as prescribed by the Sharia law. A halal slaughter uses a sharp knife and requires that the animal is well-rested and fed before slaughtering. Any animal that has died before being slaughtered properly is considered haram.

 

Haram refers to any acts that are prohibited in the religious texts of the Koran and the Sunna. For example, Muslims are prohibited from consuming flowing blood and meats like pork, dog, cat, monkey, or any other haram animals, unless in extraordinary emergencies like starvation.

 

Only vegetarian animals are allowed to be killed, while fruits and vegetables must be inspected for the presence of insects before consumption. Although fish, in general, are permitted, shellfish are forbidden. Meanwhile, grains are permitted provided they do not use animal fats or other forbidden ingredients.

 

Alcohol and intoxicants such as tobacco, paan, dokha, and khat are prohibited in Islam. Nutmeg, asafoetida, vanilla extract, and gelatin are also forbidden, due to the use of alcohol (vanilla extract) and other forbidden ingredients containing gelatin.

 

Makruh is defined as anything that is inappropriate, distasteful, or offensive and Muslims are recommended to avoid them. When it comes to food, this includes food that is spoiled or rotten.

As demand rises for halal food, both Islamic and non-Islamic markets are stepping up on measures to keep halal food production aligned with international standards and requirements. For instance, slaughtered animals for the halal market need to undergo two health checks, as compared to the single inspection performed on other conventional animals.

 

To capture a wider palate, halal food manufacturers have introduced more food items like hot dogs, soups, candies, burgers, sandwiches, cookies, and pizzas. With the growth of eCommerce, consumers now have easier access to halal-certified food products.

 

Over in Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, researchers are exploring the use of real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) methods in halal food production. Rat contamination in locally produced halal meatballs is a major concern for food manufacturers here. The current practice of using pork DNA as a detection method often produces a negative result, as it does not take into consideration other haram animals such as dogs, cats, and monkeys. RT-PCR offers the best solution in the detection and identification of contaminants in processed meat.

As DNA profiling is the most sensitive, specific, and accurate method of species identification, the ability to authenticate ingredients’ biological origin, including plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria is extremely important. DNA sequencing is recognized as the most reliable method for species identification as it offers high-resolution identification from farm to fork.

 

The most common method to verify species substitution and species identification is RT-PCR. However, this approach is limited by the number of targets that can be simultaneously identified and differentiated. This can be critical especially when testing highly processed and complex food that often contains multiple different species.

 

The use of next-generation sequencing (NGS) and quantitative RT-PCR technologies is increasing in efforts to improve halal food standards and prevent food contamination. While RT-PCR and NGS are two different methods used for species identification, it must be noted that there are differences in the findings and results obtained from each of these methods.

 

The use of NGS in the food sector has revolutionized food authenticity testing. It enables accurate detection and differentiation of thousands of different species in each sample using DNA sequencing.

The emergence of NGS and RT-PCR has launched new opportunities and value networks for food manufacturers and continues to transform the halal food industry. DKSH, with its market-leading food authenticity technology solutions, is ready to assist halal food businesses to implement NGS and RT-PCR technologies in their food productions process.

If your business is ready to take advantage of the growing halal markets across Asia, reach out to us at DKSH.

Sources:

Potchara Sungtong

About the author

Potchara Sungtong joined DKSH Thailand in 2021 as Director, Food and Beverage overseeing the Asia Pacific region. With a background in food science and in microbiology, he brings with him over 20 years of experience in research and development, sales and marketing, channel management, and business development in food and beverages. Potchara has extensive knowledge in food safety, customer requirements, laboratory workflows, and lab efficiencies.