Authentication of a traditional game meat sausage (Alheira) by species-specific PCR assays to detect hare, rabbit, red deer, pork and cow meats uri icon


  • Alheira is a traditional meat product that is typical from the Northeast region of Portugal and much appreciated. It is a sort of sausage produced industrially or by small artisanal producers, having wheat bread and meats as main ingredients. Game meat Alheira (Alheira de caça) is considered one of the most attractive products since it should include different game meats. The aim of the present work was to identify the species of origin of meats added to game meat Alheira samples to verify their compliance with labelling. Species-specific PCR assays targeting mitochondrial genes of rabbit, hare, red deer, cow and pork were optimised and applied to industrial and artisanal samples. The assays revealed adequate specificity for each of the targeted species, with sensitivities of 0.01-0.1%. Results of the evaluation of 18 commercial samples identified several inconsistencies with labelling, namely the absence of declared game species (red deer, hare and rabbit) in ten samples and the presence of undeclared cow species in nine of the analysed samples. These findings indicate the occurrence of misleading labelling, suggesting the adulteration by substitution of game meats by cow meat to reduce production costs and the need to protect and valorise this kind of traditional food product.

publication date

  • January 1, 2014