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New Tool Can Identify Meat and Fish Fraud in Seconds

New Tool Can Identify Meat and Fish Fraud in Seconds

The MasSpec Pen, which was originally invented by a team of scientists and engineers at UT Austin to identify cancerous tissue in people, can also now be used to determine the identity of meat and fish products in around 15 seconds. The research is described in the March 24 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Watch the MasSpec Pen in action:


Livia Schiavinato Eberlin and her colleagues invented the MasSpec Pen to distinguish between normal and cancerous tissues during surgery. The device delivered results in around ten seconds, with more than 96% accuracy. Now, amid reports of fraud related to food, the tool is finding another purpose, as well.

The MasSpec Pen works by releasing a drop of solvent onto the tissue or sample being analyzed, and small molecules migrate into the liquid. Then the device drives the sample into an instrument called a mass spectrometer, which detects thousands of molecules as a molecular fingerprint. An artificial intelligence agent is trained on hundreds or thousands of confirmed samples to accurately recognize the molecular fingerprints of future samples.

In the News

Fraudulent Fish Foiled by Cancer-Catching Pen, Scientific American

The current "gold standard methods" for analyzing meat and fish products are polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS), according to the research, but both could take hours or days to yield results. The MasSpec Pen's 15 second analysis time is much faster than PCT and LC-MS. The device's analysis process also does no harm to the meat being analyzed.

The researchers say they are exploring the possibility of using the MasSpec pen with a portable mass spectrometer, which would facilitate the use of the device in the field.

Read more: Revealing meat and fish fraud with a handheld 'MasSpec Pen' in seconds, American Chemical Society Release

'MasSpec Pen' Can Uncover Food Fraud in 15 Seconds, Laboratory Equipment

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Monday, 18 October 2021

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