Applied Food Technologies identifies seafood

W - AFT LeeAnn2 Applied Food Technologies founder and CEO LeeAnn Applewhite uses DNA sequencing to identify seafood products to combat fraud in the food industry.

ALACHUA – Are you sure that piece of grouper you’re eating is really grouper? Applied Food Technologies can help you find out.

For more than eight years Applied Food Technologies has been identifying processed fish for the seafood industry from its headquarters in the University of Florida’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator at Progress Corporate Park.

The company engages in the research, development and commercialization of products and services for the food industry, specifically the development of molecular species identification tools.

Applied Food Technologies combats the growing problem of mislabeled seafood, which causes health and economic issues.

Since 2006 there have been more than 1,100 documented reports of fish fraud. Everything from cases of imitation crab being passed off as genuine to “seafood nuggets” being sold as scallops have been reported.

To identify the seafood, Applied Food Technologies use a process called polymerase chain reaction, or PCR. Each species of fish has specific segments of DNA that are unique. The company isolates and replicates these segments using PCR until there is enough DNA to sequence and compare to Applied Food Technology’s database of verified DNA.

Applied Food Technologies routinely tests seafood products for companies at all stages in the supply chain – importers, suppliers, distributors, processors and restaurant and grocery chains. It also tests products detained by federal agencies such as FDA Import Alerts.

In addition to the FDA and UF, Applied Food Technologies also collaborates with the Smithsonian Institution, the University of Louisiana, the University of Kansas, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service to identify species and issue letters of validation.

Applied Food Technologies stands out from the competition because it is the only company that uses methods that are accepted by regulatory agencies for regulatory compliance testing, said CEO LeeAnn Applewhite.

The company has grown since its founding in 2004, making a name for itself in food technology.

“We started with three part-time employees and now have four full-time and four part-time employees,” Applewhite said.

The company supports the Alachua community through hiring locally, providing internships to students at UF and Santa Fe College and judging local science fairs.

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