• 3 Applications of Foodomics

Mass Spectrometry & Spectroscopy

3 Applications of Foodomics

Jul 27 2022

Over the past decade, advances in high-throughput omics technologies have allowed scientists to analyse food at the molecular level. From metabolomics, proteomics and genomics to transcriptomics and lipidomics, sophisticated analytical techniques are used to analyse food across a wide range of industries. Below, we take a closer look at some of the most important applications of foodomics.

Improving public health

In a study led by scientists at the University of California, researchers used untargeted metabolomics to identify previously unknown chemicals in human blood and waste. The findings were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology and explain how large databases were used to match metabolic products to chemicals and generate molecule signatures.

“Untargeted mass spectrometry is a very sensitive technique that allows for the detection of hundreds to thousands of molecules that can now be used to create a diet profile of individuals,” says co-author of the study Pieter Dorrestein, a professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California.

“The expanded ability to understand how what we eat translates into products and by-products of metabolism has direct implications for human health,” he adds. “We can now use this approach to obtain diet information empirically and understand relationships to clinical outcomes. It is now possible to link molecules in diet to health outcomes not one at a time but all at once, which has not been possible before.”

Understanding food mechanisms

In an article published in the journal Current Opinion in Food Science, the author explores how omics technologies are being used to “demystify” fermented foods such as beer, wine, soy sauce and vinegar. The article spotlights technologies like metagenomic sequencing used to profile gut microbiota and genomics to map fermentation mechanisms. The author also introduces transcriptomics as a way to “help to understand the active biological processes and pathways under particular conditions”.

Preventing food fraud

Food fraud is a global issue, with everything from Italian olive oil to Australian honey affected by criminal activity. Foodomics plays a critical role in creating transparency across the supply chain, identifying criminals and preventing food fraud. A wide range of analytical techniques are used by food fraud scientists, including DNA analysis. In Europe the technique is used to identify mislabelled seafood products such as Atlantic cod, which is often substituted with cheaper species.

“Identifying the species based on morphological features is often difficult for the consumer because processed fish usually lack the parts that enable their better identification, such as heads, tails, or fins, and the appearance and taste of different species might be similar,” reads an article published in the peer-reviewed journal Foods.

DNA barcoding allows scientists to identify species using molecular data. Different fragments such as the cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) gene are extracted, amplified and sequenced, with information then compared to official databases to determine the species.

Want to know more about how foodomics is being used to tackle food fraud and prevent economically motivated criminal activity? We take a closer look in ‘A Complete Guide to Food Fraud & Foodomics’. Or read 'Accurate Testing Keeps Farm Animals Healthy' to discover the importance of testing on animals at the very start of the food production chain.

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