Investigating Food Fraud with DNA Barcoding


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Have you ever wondered if that expensive sushi is really what they say it is? Are those rare and expensive mushrooms at your local farmers market really just common species? Is that expensive sheep's milk cheese really just made from cow's milk? It turns out it's more common than you might think.

Come join us as we use DNA barcoding to investigate the sometimes sketchy world of food labelling. Like a barcode found on a box of cereal allows point-of-sale systems to automatically identify a product, DNA barcodes use a short section of DNA to uniquely identify organisms to the species level.

Bring your own samples from a supermarket or restaurant and we'll walk you through the hands-on steps of isolating, amplifying, and analyzing its DNA. See notes below for additional information.

The entire barcoding process will take two sessions, with part two occurring on Saturday November 9. While you don't have to attend both, we highly recommend you do in order to get he full experience. Cost for both sessions is $25 ($20 for members) which includes the processing of one sample. You are welcome to bring additional samples, but will be charged and additional $10 per additional sample. Members should pay the full prices and will be reimbursed at the event. Please contact Chris M. at chris.monaco[at] with any questions.

• This event is appropriate for all ages. However, children under 16 years of age should be accompanied by a participating adult.
• After registration you will be provided with a link to complete a form detailing information about your sample including when and where it was collected and what the sample was identified as when you got it.
• Only a small amount of tissue is needed for DNA extraction—a piece of plant leaf about ⅛- to ¼-inch diameter or a piece of animal or fungal tissue the size of a grain of rice.
• For fungi, fresh samples work well for DNA isolation, while dried samples give variable results. Fungal fruiting is weather and climate dependent, so their abundance will vary.
• Samples of muscle tissue can be taken from animal foods—such as fish, poultry, or red meat. Internal organs and bone marrow are also good sources of DNA. Fresh and frozen samples, and those preserved in ethanol, work well. However, bone, skin, leather, feather, dessicated, cooked, and processed samples are challenging.
• Please prevent your sample from rotting by freezing prior to the event. The fresher the sample the better!