Posted on 15 July 2009
The team at York was able to detect the tell-tale signs of contaminating animal protein in samples of chicken meat sent anonymously by the BBC.
Professor Matthew Collins, head of the BioArCh team that analysed the samples, said: "I confess that this is not what I imagined we would be doing with our ZooMS technique.”
The concept behind ZooMS is very simple, but without the excellent analytical team here at the Centre for Excellence we would not have been able to get it working
Professor Matthew Collins
The concept behind ZooMS (short for Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry) is to develop a cheap identification technique for the 80 – 95 per cent of bone fragments in the archaeological record that are too small or damaged to be recognised by conventional zooarchaeological methods. ZooMS, developed in collaboration with York's Centre for Excellence in Mass Spectrometry, identifies samples using fingerprints of peptides recovered from ancient bone proteins using mass spectrometry.
"The concept behind ZooMS is very simple, but without the excellent analytical team here at the Centre for Excellence we would not have been able to get it working,” Professor Collins explained.
Paul Reece and colleagues from the Food and Environment Research Agency realised that the ZooMS method might be useful beyond archaeology and have been working with the University to explore ways to share the technology.
Paul Reece said: “A collaboration between Archaeologists and FERA scientists may not be immediately obvious but if a method is good enough to detect protein buried for thousands of years, why not test it on processed food?"