npj Science of Food

Food authentication from shotgun sequencing reads with an application on high protein powders

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Here we propose that using shotgun sequencing to examine food leads to accurate authentication of ingredients and detection of contaminants. To demonstrate this, we developed a bioinformatic pipeline, FASER (Food Authentication from SEquencing Reads), designed to resolve the relative composition of mixtures of eukaryotic species using RNA or DNA sequencing. Our comprehensive database includes >6000 plants and animals that may be present in food. FASER accurately identified eukaryotic species with 0.4% median absolute difference between observed and expected proportions on sequence data from various sources including sausage meat, plants, and fish. FASER was applied to 31 high protein powder raw factory ingredient total RNA samples. The samples mostly contained the expected source ingredient, chicken, while three samples unexpectedly contained pork and beef. Our results demonstrate that DNA/RNA sequencing of food ingredients, combined with a robust analysis, can be used to find contaminants and authenticate food ingredients in a single assay.