Issues of traceability of food are set to see some resolution with a new partnership between High Street retailer Marks & Spencer and paper-to-high tech engineering company Whatman.  Using DNA technology developed by the Kent-based firm, M&S will be able to pinpoint exactly which animal every piece of meat in its food hall came from.

The ailing clothes, food and home furnishings giant is hoping that the new technology will go some way to alleviating consumer food fears after a bout of scares that range from BSE to salmonella and foot and mouth disease.

If there is a need to establish where food comes from, a swab sample on paper of the DNA makeup in a piece of meat or a plant can be matched to its source via a comprehensive catalogue of the DNA of suppliers’ animal carcasses and fruit and vegetables. Thus farm conditions can be monitored, other food from the same source can be checked out and consumers can be confident that the source on the packaging is indeed where their food came from.

Furthermore, particularly popular meat or vegetables can be ordered again from the same supplier.

“We can check whether a piece of steak really is Aberdeen Angus, or whether it’s from some old French cow,” explained David Smith, CEO of Whatman’s.

The new technology is more advanced than other tracking measures, such as barcodes, and does not need refrigeration because Whatman use paper to collect DNA samples. M&S is as yet unsure how the process will be operated however it seems likely that Whatman will be paid for every DNA test it conducts.