11 Jul 2017

Country-of-origin test for blood products launched

3:23 pm on 11 July 2017

A Dunedin forensics company has launched a unique scientific test to verify Fetal Bovine Serum from New Zealand, Australia and the US to stop other countries trying to cash in on the high value market.

Brighter Future - Dairy. Dairy farming family the Mathieson's, Ewen, Dianne and Melissa talk about the boom and bust of their industry since 2008 and how they got through some of the tougher times.

The serum comes from calf fetuses and is used in drug research and vaccines. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Dunedin-based forensics expert Oritain has announced a partnership with global medical technology provider GE Healthcare to test the origin of cow blood product, Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS).

The serum is a cell-growth supplement from calf fetuses which is used in human and animal vaccines, drug discovery and basic research.

Sam Lind from Oritain said cow blood products from New Zealand, Australia and the US were worth about 10 times more than serums from other countries because of the low risk of disease.

However, because of this value and risk, traceability is extremely important.

"There's a definite value add for the agricultural industry for pharmaceutical blood products. But because of such a price differential there have been cases of fraudulent activity within the industry.

"Despite some very high paperwork traceability requirements it continues to happen."

Dr Lind said the new testing programme would stop this from happening.

"We're there to ensure there is trust in the supply chain from the abattoir level through to the pharmaceutical end customer, and that ensures the value is obtained."

Up until now the blood products have been traced through paperwork such as shipping documents and invoices.

"That sort of information is only as accurate or truthful as the people who create it. There are still holes in the system for people that want to behave unfavourably."

Dr Lind said the new programme measured the naturally-occurring chemical elements in the serum that were the result of the particular environment the cows were raised in.

Oritain chief executive Grant Cochrane said the new test will provide reliable traceability.

Oritain will test batch samples of Fetal Bovine Serum from Australia, New Zealand and the US and customers would be able to go online and get an independent verification certificate for the serum that they have purchased.