The news of the development of the new kit comes soon after confectionery giant Cadbury faced allegations that its halal chocolate contained pig DNA. In early June 2014, Malaysia’s Islamic development department, JAKIM, analysed 11 samples of two Cadbury varieties and found that none tested positive for porcine DNA.
The Unisel Vice Chancellor, Professor Doctor Anuar Ahmad, said that Unisel had been given an allocation of RM1.3 million from the Selangor Government to develop the tool, which is expected to be completed in December 2015. The tool will be for food, cosmetics and medicines.
“Although it is small, it can save costs compared to laboratory tests,” Dr Ahmad said.
He said the results produced by the new detection kit will be “as good as laboratory tests which cost thousands of ringgit”.
New kit uses nano sensor technology
Kits that test for non-halal ingredients are not new. Previously in Malaysia, several parties, including universities, had tried to develop a halal detection kit. However, Dr Ahmad said the technology which will be developed by Unisel was considered the most advanced.
“The halal kit previously functioned to detect only pig DNA content,” Dr Ahmad said.
He said that the advantage of the Unisel Halal Kit is that it will use nano sensor technology to detect substances as low as 0.001 per cent, the lowest substance which is normally contained in food, cosmetics and drugs in the market.
How it works for consumers
Dr Ahmad said the new kit would be easy for consumers to use. The sample is entered into the detector and shaken until it dissolves, which should happen within 10 seconds. The dissolved substance is then tested with the electronic sensor in the kit.
“Automatically, the kit will produce a fluorescent light that will determine the pig content within a minute,” Dr Ahmad said.
“Great care” needed with test kits, FoodLegal expert
Commenting on the development of the new kit, Joe Lederman of FoodLegal expert food industry law specialists said that “great care needs to be taken with the usage of some types of cheap test kits”.
“Although I have not seen how this particular kit’s technology works, FoodLegal experienced a situation where a major Australian laboratory working for State food regulatory authorities in Australia provided a false positive result of porcine DNA in a frozen meat bakery product,” Mr Lederman said.
“We were able to substantiate and verify each link in the product supply chain and at the same time get proper DNA testing which proved that pigs and cattle share some common gene sequences,” Mr Lederman said. “This saved the client company and its suppliers from the hellish scenario of an undeserved costly food recall,” he said.