July 24, 2024

Spray-on DNA Bar Codes May be Coming to Produce

A California company called DNATrek is marketing a spray-on DNA barcode that could help track the origins of pathogenic bacteria during a food poisoning outbreak related to produce. Discovering the origin of the contamination is key to preventing further illnesses and alerting the public who may have purchased the contaminated product. The technology was developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and is licensed to DNATrek.

produceGrocery stores get shipments of produce from all over the country and the world. Many distributors are involved in the supply chain, so traceback can be very difficult, especially since packing boxes with identifying information are quickly thrown away after the produce is shelved in the store. The contamination could have occurred in the field, during picking and packing, or anywhere along the transportation route.

The spray-on DNA barcodes work by using liquids that each have a unique DNA sequence, taken from substances such as seaweed. The liquids are mixed with food safe additives, such as waxes used on cucumbers and apples. Each time the produce is handled, the food would be sprayed with that facility’s unique DNA bar code. Growers, packers, and shippers would all have their own signature genetic bar code.

When an outbreak occurs, polymerase chain reaction technology would be used to decode the DNA information and pinpoint where the produce was grown and how it got to the consumer. The decoding process takes about 20 minutes in a lab.

This technology has been recognized as safe by the FDA. Large scale tests will begin on this new process next year. Produce is a common source of food poisoning outbreaks.

But some food safety advocates don’t believe this process is safe. According to the Genetic Literacy Project, the group Friends of the Earth is concerned about spraying new DNA sequences on food. That agency is also concerned about the use of many different DNA sequences.

DNATrek needs to confirm safety during pilot tests. It’s important to remember that this is not genetic engineering; the DNA is only being sprayed on the surface of the fruits and vegetables, not inserted into the plant’s genes.


  1. The Gatekeeper says

    And how safe is this going to be for people like me who are ALLERGIC to seaweed or other substances they might use? There’s no way I’m going to eat any food sprayed with this stuff! What the heck ever happened to good old plain unadulterated food???? Are they going to spray this crap on organic food, too???? What is going to be left to eat????

  2. The DNA spray-on crap, and the additives are likely to trigger allergic reactions in many people. Since there will be no labels to warn us, that is putting allergy victims at extremly high risk of severe reactions. What we don’t know… can kill us!

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