Richmond DNA technology one step ahead of UK scare

Hawkes Bay-based meat company Richmond's patented DNA trace-back technology is gaining rapid favour with retailers like Marks & Spencer as worry over the origins of meat rises.

Hawkes Bay-based meat company Richmond's patented DNA trace-back technology is gaining rapid favour with retailers like Marks & Spencer as worry over the origins of meat rises.

The UK’s foot-and-mouth outbreak is widely expected to hasten the introduction of new technology and online systems. But the focus is quickly turning to DNA-based solutions after the UK’s Meat and Livestock Commission said it expects the greatest technology improvements to come in the DNA profiling area, and Marks & Spencer announced this month it would focus on adopting DNA-based separation techniques.

Richmond livestock manager Scott Weir confirmed Marks & Spencer is using Richmond’s technology, and says Richmond is now dealing with most of its major retailers in the UK with the system. Weir says the system essentially removes the retailer from liability in a scare.

The company first created the combined scientific process and database system several years ago in a joint venture with Agresearch. It relies on a searchable inventory system to store DNA signatures, which are taken at the meat processing plant. Retailers place a request with Richmond to match the cuts with the DNA samples, tracing the meat back to farm it came from.

Richmond’s joint venture partner Agresearch has rebranded a version of the trace-back system as easiTrace, and it is being marketed by Sastek in the UK and Europe and bundled with European ERP Supplier Westland Systems Ltd web-based ERP system for the perishable food industry.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has released a standard for bovine carcasses and cuts, which recommends electronic numbering body EAN’s UCC system for barcoding animal cuts. New Zealand trade organisations participated in the drafting of the standard.

Other programmes being developed around the world include wireless ear tags and skin implants for live animals. Computerworld reported several weeks ago (NZ software helps fight foot and mouth) that a team from Massey University has travelled to London with MAF officials, taking their software package EpiMAN, a decision support system that helps authorities plan containments of outbreaks by compiling data.

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