Shrimp products can be checked against DNA profiles from the source pond ©123RF
Shrimp products can be checked against DNA profiles from the source pond ©123RF

New technology tracks shrimp from pond to plate

DNA tracking is being used to verify shrimp supply chains for UK retailers in what is claimed to be the first application of its type. 

M&S is among the companies that is using the technology, which compares the DNA of shrimp in finished consumer products with data collected from the source. The technique is designed to prevent leakages into the supply chain or co-mingling from other sources.

“What’s elegant about the technological approach is it uses, as we say, nature’s barcode… You can’t change that label, it doesn’t fall off, so it can be a very precise method of tracing products,” said Ronan Loftus, co-founder and director of IdentiGEN, the company that developed the technology.

In the same way the forensic industry uses DNA testing, IdentiGEN profiles shrimp from source ponds. Shrimp products at the other end of the supply chain can then be checked against this database for authenticity.

The technique bookends the supply chain and supports companies’ own due diligence and audits. “The more complex the supply chain, clearly the greater potential for co-mingling to occur,” said Loftus.

“There are concerns within the shrimp industry about feeding regimes used, over-use of antibiotics, slave labour, things like that. If supply chains have made considerable investment in ensuring that all those practices are certified and meet the various requirements I think it’s critically important that the finished product the consumer gets originates from those sources,” he said.

Loftus also claims the technology has improved compliance in the supply chains of firms that have implemented it. “It creates a culture of compliance,” he said, because suppliers know issues within the supply chain can detected and traced.

The technique is already in use for other meat products, and Loftus says this is the first time it has been used for shrimp.

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