The confectionery samples were mainly chocolate (milk, dark or flavoured), candy and ice cream, from a variety of imported brands including Lindt, Cadbury, Skittles, Bounty, Ritter Sport, Ferrero Rocher, Snickers, Hershey and Nestle.
These were manufactured in Thailand, India, Europe, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, UAE, UK among other countries.
Researchers from Southeast University and Islamic University in Bangladesh detected pork DNA in two samples, namely Cadbury’s chocolate (Milk Tray) and Mars Skittles’ candy (Wild Berry Flavour) through the Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method.
These two samples were found to contain the porcine cytochrome b gene, which is a genetic marker for pork DNA and is not easily degraded in processed foods such as confectionery.
Lab officer, G.M. Sala Uddin who also designed the study said the contamination was possibly due to the food packaging used, where lubricants and stabilisers (or stearates) can be made from animal derivatives such as pigs.
The findings were published in the Asian Food Science Journal.
FoodNavigator-Asia checked the information panel on Cadbury’s Milk Tray Chocolate where it displays a vegetarian claim, but no halal logo, or pork-free indication.
Although of its ingredients, none were found to be pork-derived. It contains stabilisers obtained from invertase.
Similarly, Skittle’s Wild Berry candy does not contain any pork-derived ingredients, is gelatin free and also displays a vegetarian logo.
Both products were manufactured in the UK.
Bangladesh is a majority-Muslim country and imports most of its processed foods such as chocolate, candies and ice cream. It was important to ensure halal safety assurance not only in meat products, but also for processed foods.
According to Uddin, there are no established lab for the detection of pork adulteration for confectionery in Bangladesh yet.
“But, as a Muslim country, pork DNA identification in processed food is necessary as the buyer has the right to be informed about products being bought and consumed.”
Currently, the PCR method is widely used to detect pork in meat mixtures such as sausages.
This study established that the DNA-based porcine detection system based on mitochondrial cyt-b is viable in highly processed products, so Uddin said this method may be useful for assessing pork contamination in confectionery.
“More research can be done in this area in order to improve the purity of the products and find out whether the method is reliable for many other products. This can also be used for halal authentication and quality control approaches in the future.”
In the study, all 42 confectionery samples were not labeled as halal certified nor were there indications of them being pork-free.
Uddin added: “We found the packaging of most confectionery samples we tested were inappropriately labelled, and there were no indications of pork-derived ingredients.
“We recommend that chocolate sellers should indicate whether their products are pork free or not and buyers should confirm it before their delivery to customers.”
Uddin said if his research team manages to secure future funding, they may further studies on how packaging materials or other elements could contaminate confectionery products.
Uddin stressed that the research was funded by personal efforts of the authors, and there was no conflict between the authors and producers of the products, adding: “we do not intend to use these products as an avenue for any litigation but for the advancement of knowledge.”
Source: Asian Food Science Journal
“Halal Food Safety: PCR Based Detection of Porcine DNA in Imported Chocolate”
Authors: Khaleda Akter, et al.