Exposures to toxic plants are the most frequent cause of poisonings that are reported to poison control centers. Although most of the cases of plant exposures occur in children, due to the accidental ingestion of showy fruits, the new trend of nutritional therapies and phytotherapy increases the poisoning cases in adult too.
Most people believe that plants are naturally safe and can be used as healing remedies for human health. This belief often
leads to the spontaneous use of plants for medicinal and aesthetic purposes without evaluating the e ects of their secondary metabolites on humans.
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Traceability and food safety are concepts that are gaining more and more importance in the food industry.
The assessment of the origins and quality of raw materials and also of the composition of finished products provides not only benefits in terms of safety but it can also support the brand image.
The companies that pay attention to these kind of issues and are able to communicate the results obtained through investments in quality assessment are also able to increase brand loyalty thanks to an increased confidence of the consumers.
The increasing relevance of biotechnology allowed us to develop new methods to obtain reliable food traceability and safety. One of these methods is the technique called DNA BARCODING allowing the identification of a species from a specific segment of DNA. It has no limits, even in complex mixtures or in finished and processed products.
The case of honey
The case of honey is an example of the utility of DNA Barcoding. A study conducted by some researchers of the University of Milano-Bicocca confirmed the effectiveness of DNA Barcoding as a tool to identify the geographic origin of a specific honey sample.
Four samples of honey collected from four different regions of North Italy were analyzed in the study. Through the use of a particular kind of analysis, the DNA of 39 types of plants was identified and the combination of them returns the area of origin of the honey samples.
The tests also demonstrated the usefulness of DNA Barcoding in food security as it is able to determine the presence of DNA of potentially harmful species in finished products. In this case, for example, the DNA of Belladonna, a plant that could have a harmful effect on humans, was also detected.
The Advantages of DNA Barcoding
FEM2-Ambiente, in collaboration with the researchers of the University of Milano-Bicocca, is leader in this methodology of analysis. It provides a faster and more efficient service, compared to the current techniques used to identify the honey’s geographical origins (Melissopalinology). This is possible because DNA Barcoding is a secure, universal and standardized technique.