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Paardenvleeslasagnes testen voor 15 miljoen

Door Science Palooza, 27 Februari 2013, 12:17


Paardenvlees1

Vorige week stelden de bij ‘paardenvleesgate’ betrokken landbouwministers voor om 2500 testen uit te voeren op vleesproducten. Voor de Nederlandse Voedsel- en WarenAutoriteit (NVWA) is dat niet genoeg; die komt met een integraal ketenonderzoek, inclusief steekproeven bij paardenslachterijen, koel- en vrieshuizen, en vleesverwerkende bedrijven. Voedingsbedrijven grijpen zelf al naar de test; volgens testlaboratorium Silliker is de vraag naar paarden-DNA-testen enorm toegenomen. Het bedrijf rekent 150 euro per test, en verdient er dus flink aan. Met name aan de NVWA, die met ruim tienduizend testen op de planning zo’n 15 miljoen euro kan neertellen. En dat terwijl iedereen nu toch al weet dat er de diepvrieslasagne paardenvlees kan bevatten, en maar weinigen dit echt problematisch vinden. Als we toch met geld gaan smijten, willen we dan niet kijken naar méér dan paarden-DNA alleen?

Kettingreactie

De testen zijn ongetwijfeld zeer specifiek en nauwkeurig. Toch is het vreemd dat zowel voedingsbedrijven als de NVWA zoveel geld spenderen aan uitsluitsel over een klein deel van een inmiddels opgelost probleem. De testen zijn namelijk gebaseerd op een technologie die weliswaar gecertificeerd is en goed werkt, maar ernstig beperkt in zijn mogelijkheden voor het testen van ons voedsel. Het gaat om de Polymerase Chain Reaction, of PCR in de wetenschappelijke volksmond. Deze kettingreactie-technologie maakt gebruik van de eigenschap van DNA om zich met behulp van enzymen te kunnen kopiëren. Kleine stukjes DNA kunnen daarmee vermenigvuldigd worden ten opzichte van de rest. Op die manier kan het laboratorium de aanwezigheid van specifieke DNA-markers – bijvoorbeeld van het paard – aantonen in onder meer lasagne. Ofwel: bij een concrete vraag—zit er DNA van beest X in dit voedselproduct?—geeft deze test een ja of nee. Tegelijkertijd zoeken naar—ik noem maar wat—honden-DNA, of ook maar de herkomst van het aanwezige paarden-DNA achterhalen is er niet bij. Daarvoor moeten we bredere tests ontwikkelen.

Het nieuwe sequencen

De technologie om een volledig lasagne-DNA-profiel te maken, is er in principe al. Sinds een paar jaar kunnen we namelijk next-generation sequencen – in korte tijd heel veel DNA aflezen. Nu al zijn er apparaten die in een week zo’n 30 miljard nucleotiden (DNA-bouwstenen) verwerken: dat is 10 keer het hele DNA van een mens. Voor dergelijke apparaten zou een lasagne een kwestie van minuten zijn. Maar dan moet er nog wel een kleine ontwikkelstap gemaakt worden. Next-generation sequencing wordt weliswaar steeds meer gebruikt in toegepast medisch en voedingsonderzoek, maar een echte lasagne-DNA-test is er nog niet. Dat zou wel kunnen als we de gegevens die de afleesapparaten uitspugen net iets beter zouden begrijpen. Om een voorbeeld te noemen: de bestaande apparaten lezen het DNA af in stukjes van 50 nucleotiden, waarvoor ze vervolgens een ‘match’ proberen te vinden met een bekend stuk DNA van bijvoorbeeld het paard of de koe. Dat is lastig, niet alleen omdat de apparaten nog niet altijd 100% nauwkeurig aflezen en er dus af en toe foutjes zitten in de 50 nucleotiden, maar ook omdat paarden- en koeien-DNA deels overeenkomen. Er staan dus nog wat kleine hordes voor de voedings-DNA-profieltest, maar als we ons even inzetten, is geen lasagne—of ander levensmiddel—meer veilig. Met één apparaat kan je dan het percentage paardenvlees in je lasagne bepalen, en de bacteriepopulatie in je flesje Yakult ‘zien’.

Oh, en dan kunnen we de apparaten natuurlijk ook wat kleiner maken, en in je vriezer integreren. Diepvriesproducten  scannen wordt dan een eitje, en gaat zelfs zonder dat je er iets voor hoeft te doen. De hele DNA-inhoud van je vriezer kan dan ook gelijk op internet, zodat ook onderzoekers zien wat jij eet. Een mooie manier om gegevens voor voedingsonderzoek te verzamelen. En een goudmijn voor voedselproducenten, die een beetje kunnen meekijken in de keuken van hun klanten. Een genot voor iedereen.

Maar goed, ik draaf door, want zover is het nog niet. We hebben nog wat geld nodig om die voedingstesten daadwerkelijk te kunnen ontwikkelen. Een soort investering in de toekomst. Ontwikkelingsgeld. Een innovatievoucher. Ik dacht aan zo’n vijftien miljoen.

Door: Terry Vrijenhoek 


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