SPAIN – EthiChain, a Spanish biotech startup, is developing a portable device that will be able to identify animal DNA in contaminated “vegan” products, in just one hour.

The complexity of most food supply chains makes them extremely vulnerable to food fraud, meaning some consumers in the vegan community may have food trust issues.

In this context, the EIT Food-funded EthiChain highlights how transparency and proper communication of this transparency to the consumer are crucial.

EIT Food is Europe’s leading food innovation initiative, working to make the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted. It invests in projects, organizations and individuals that share its goals for a healthy and sustainable food system.

EthiChain is a year long project that aims to come up with three inventions; one to detect animal DNA in vegan products, another to detect pork in halal products and a third to detect horse or donkey as well as pork DNA in Kosher products.

It is currently working on rapid and portable DNA analysis devices that do not require specialized personnel but only two hours of training, and will be suitable for routine analysis in the food industry and in distribution chains.

Results will be automatically digitized in the company’s traceability system and be accessible to the entire food chain involved.

“The idea was to provide food companies, retailers, and food control laboratories with portable, rapid DNA analysis systems for authenticity verification of processed products,” informed Elisa Jimenez, Researcher, AZTI technological center.

The startup is aiming for commercialization of the devices in 2023 and is currently based at the AZTI scientific and technological center in the Basque country. AZTI develops high-impact transformation projects with organizations aligned with the United Nations 2030 SDGs.

The project which kicked off in May 2021 has developed its analytical systems and is on its way to finalizing its digitization system.

Partners in the project include ART21 from Lithuania, SwissDeCode from Switzerland, and the University of Bologna.

ART21 is a boutique innovation house delivering AgriFood Tech solutions that shape the future of agriculture, food and associated sectors.

It became the silver partner of EIT FOOD last year just a few years after becoming a full member. It is the smallest member of this organization and the only company with such status in the Baltic States.

Based in Switzerland, SwissDeCode helps food manufacturers to grow and produce food that is safe to eat by offering a rapid onsite DNA test.

EthiChain hopes its ethical food authentication system will increase trust in the European food supply system and stop food fraud.

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