HK startup says fish embryos can help test for toxins in food, cosmetics

Science and Tech

Photo from Vitargent.

The biotech company Vitargent has successfully used fish embryos to test for toxins in consumer products. The Hong Kong-based startup’s new technology can test for contaminants in a wide range of commodities, from food products to cosmetics.

Vitargent claims that their fish embryo test can inspect for up to 1,000 toxins at once. Meanwhile, the toxin tests already in place cam only scan for about five to 10 toxins at a time, according to a South China Morning Post article.

“[Our] technologies are much more comprehensive, effective and rigorous compared with the traditional testing methods,” Eric Chen, founder and executive director of Vitargent told the newspaper.

The new technology uses specially modified fish embryos, with DNA structure very similar to that of humans. Chen told the Post that this creates the circumstances by which to evaluate chemicals and toxins that would be harmful to humans. When the embryos are exposed to harmful toxins, they either develop abnormalities, such as tumors, or turn fluorescent.

The development could have a positive impact in China where recent food scandals involving cooking oil and milk powder have harmed consumer confidence.