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Trent University’s DNA Analysis of Wild Game-Laced Meat Products Leads to Conviction


Grocery Store Fined $1,800 for Illegally Selling Sausages Containing Deer and Moose Meat

Tuesday, November 18, 2008, Peterborough

As a result of DNA analysis conducted by Trent University’s Wildlife Forensic Laboratory, a Thunder Bay-area grocery store has been fined $1,800 for illegally selling wild game to the public.

The Ministry of Natural Resources announced last week that grocery store in Murillo, Ontario was convicted of two counts of illegally selling sausages that contained meat from white-tailed deer and moose. Murillo is located approximately 25 km west of Thunder Bay.

“Our lab is routinely asked by officials to conduct DNA analysis on various products suspected to contain wildlife species that are either regulated or endangered,” explained Dr. Bradley White, biology professor at Trent University who heads up the Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory on campus. “In this case, we were able to compare the DNA sequences found in the meat samples to those in our extensive DNA database to confirm the species.”

Responding to a tip from the public, Ministry of Natural Resources Thunder Bay District plainclothes conservation officers purchased smoked sausages from Wilson's Food. The meat from the sausages was analyzed by Trent University's Wildlife Forensic Laboratory and was found to contain a high proportion of deer and moose. Conservation officers and inspectors from the Thunder Bay District Health Unit executed a search warrant and confiscated about 30 kilograms of sausages.

Dr. Bradley White has operated the Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory for over 11 years at Trent University. In 1991 the laboratory produced the first DNA evidence involving a wildlife infraction to be accepted into a North American court. Since then the lab has processed over 750 forensic cases involving moose, white-tailed deer, black bear, wild turkey, walleye, rainbow trout, queen conch shells, and even rare caviar from the Caspian Sea. DNA analysis conducted by this lab has provided evidence for convictions with fines ranging from $1,000 to $50,000 per case.

Fish and wildlife DNA profiling is done from collected samples such as blood, hair, bone, tissue, antler and fish scales. The laboratory offers the following services:

  • The use of DNA profiles in individual identification and parentage analysis.
  • The use of DNA markers for species identification.
  • The identification of mixed game animal tissue with domestic animal tissue.
  • The sex identification of ungulates (i.e. hoofed mammals such as deer, elk, moose), and population identification.
  • The primary purpose of the Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory is for the benefit of wildlife management and, as such, it is a non-profit organization.

The Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory undertakes research on natural populations of animals and plants for the purpose of providing information to managers charged with conserving biodiversity and ensuring the sustainable use of Canada’s biological resources. It is also co-ordinating the development of courses, educational and training programs at Trent University in the genetic applications of natural resources and DNA forensic science.


For further information, please contact:
Dr. Bradley White at (705) 748-1011, ext. 7113.