Kyoto researchers develop DNA software that can halt food fraud

October 22, 2013

By NOBUTARO KAJI/ Staff Writer

A group of researchers at Kyoto University has developed DNA barcoding software that can prevent the fraudulent mislabeling of farm products and seafood, and also help police at crime scenes determine the origin of substances they uncover.

Utilizing the newly developed software, users can easily determine the species of living objects based on their DNA sequence information. The development of the software was announced in the U.S. scientific research journal Plos One on Oct. 18.

“Prices of yellowfin tuna and Pacific bluefin tuna are drastically different. But if they are used in cooking, it is difficult even for experts to distinguish between them. If you use this software, you can easily detect mislabeling,” said Akifumi Tanabe, who played the central role in the software's development.

The researchers, including those of the university’s Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies, created software that can compare the DNA sequences of plants, fish and other living objects with those stored in DNA databases. By comparing the DNA barcoding, the software can automatically determine the species the living objects came from.

Even in the case of new species, the software can determine which families or genera they belong to and which existing species they are related to.

Databases have been released in Japan, the United States and Europe that store the DNA sequences of a total of about 288,000 species of living objects, including fungi and viruses.

To date, the work to determine which species living objects belong to has mostly depended on the knowledge of experts and their experience. Because of those limitations, they have sometimes made mistakes. In addition, the results often differ, depending on the experts.

By NOBUTARO KAJI/ Staff Writer
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Sliced raw tuna is sold in a supermarket in Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Sliced raw tuna is sold in a supermarket in Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • Sliced raw tuna is sold in a supermarket in Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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