Human, rat DNA in burgers
Don’t eat that burger! There’s a small chance that you could ingest substituted ingredients or even contaminants from rats or humans, according to a new study.
A report from the California-based food analytics company Clear Labs sampled 258 hamburger products, including ground beef, frozen patties, fast-food and veggie burgers. Three of the samples had traces of rat DNA, and one was positive for traces of human DNA.
The results of Clear Labs “Hamburger Report” netted some disturbing results for carnivores and vegetarians. Of the 258 samples-
- In 2 cases, meat was found in vegetarian products.
- There were no black beans in one black bean burger that was tested.
- The lab found 3 cases of rat DNA (unpleasant, but not considered harmful)
- The lab found 1 case of human DNA (unpleasant, but not considered harmful)
While these results are definitely less than appetizing, it should be noted they amount to a small fraction of the samples being contaminated by a human or rat hair during production.
“The most likely cause is hair, skin, or fingernail that was accidentally mixed in during the manufacturing process,” Clear Labs said, referring to the human DNA finding.
Some contamination is expected by food regulatory authorities, since very low traces of contaminants are not harmful to humans, the report added.
“The low incidence of hygienic issues surfaced by our study is a testament to the burger industry as a whole and the stringent protocols for safe food handling. As noted by the FDA, certain low levels of contamination are acceptable,” Clear Labs said.
Clear Labs said in its report that vegetarian products did not fare well with 23.6 percent of the products tested showing some form of discrepancy between the label and actual product.
“We were super surprised by the higher rate of problems in veggie products, because you normally think of veggie products as being safer” Clear Labs co-founder Mahni Ghorashi told Gizmodo. Ghorashi added that in addition to substitution issues, veggie burgers were more likely to contain snippets of DNA from known human pathogens. Overall, Clear Labs found evidence of bugs that cause illnesses including gastroenteritis and pneumonia in 12 samples.
Clear Labs said that human and rat DNA is unpleasant, but it is unlikely that it is harmful to human health.
Experts caution that these pathogens may not be a real issue.
“The biggest concern, and they mention this in the report, is that the method cannot differentiate between live and dead cells,” said Michael Doyle, a professor of food microbiology at the University of Georgia. “The cooking process will kill most pathogens. I think their results may be a bit misleading in that sense.”