New kit tests for food fraud, invasive species
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Individuals can now check for food fraud in their groceries, as well as invasive species in their gardens. Developed by University of Guelph researchers, the LifeScanner Species Identification Kit combines smartphone technology, a DNA identification kit and scientists who test the samples and send the results back to the consumer.

The researchers say the goal of the kit is to allow non-scientists to learn about the organisms they encounter in the garden or in another country or even what exactly they’re prepping for dinner.

Sujeevan Ratnasingham is the associate director of informatics at the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics and founder of LifeScanner.

To use the kit, Ratnasingham explains you put the sample in the vial, shake it, scan the code, fill out an online form and then “throw the vial in the mail.”

“It shows up at our lab where the DNA is extracted and the DNA barcode is read and scanned against the global database to identify the species and the information just goes flying right back to the user’s mobile app,” he said.

“They get a little alert and they can see where the organism lives, other places where it’s been found, other images of the organism and descriptions, if it’s a known organism,” he added. “In many cases, people find when they use the LifeScanner tool, they find unknown organisms.”

Learn more on the LifeScanner website.

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