Bone and Tooth

Tooth and bone are common foreign matter complaints made by consumers in food forensic investigations. The fundamental tenet of forensic science is that when two objects come into contact, a transfer can occur. Bone occasionally ends up in meat-based products; tooth fragments, fillings, and implants can be broken or dislodged by the process of eating. Encountering any of these in a food product is always concerning to both consumer and producer. As a laboratory that has been looking at consumer compliant samples (food forensic samples) for over 25 years, we have found that consumers are excellent at recognizing the presence of foreign matter, but “identifications” made by consumers and quality assurance departments are often incorrect. For example, tooth and bone are easily confused with each other and with other types of food and non-food products. Similarly, we have seen dental implants and fillings mistaken for screws and rocks (among other materials). Incorrect or partial assessments can escalate situations, wheres a solid, factual identification provided at an early stage can give all parties the information needed to assess a situation.

Our food forensic analyses quickly provide factual information that can help a manufacturer, restaurant, supplier, consumer, or insurance company arrive at a resolution. Unbiased information established by Microtrace, a third-party, independent laboratory can provide all parties with a level of comfort stemming from an unbiased analysis.  With years of experience in both food and forensic investigations, we provide our results in a form that is both comprehensible to a consumer and scientifically-backed to sustain the scrutiny of litigation or scientific review. Typical questions we’re asked to answer include:

  • Is it a tooth? Is it a bone?
  • Is this a filling, a dental implant (e.g., pin, crown, post), or something else entirely?
  • Is this an artificial tooth?
  • If it isn’t tooth or bone, what is it?
  • When was the item introduced?
  • Was the item cooked or processed with the product?
  • Is there blood and/or saliva on the item?
  • Is this tooth/bone human or animal?
  • From what type of animal did the bone/tooth originate?
  • Which bone(s) is this?

At Microtrace, analyses are conducted in our purpose built, ISO 17025 accredited laboratory, which integrates state of the art equipment, unparalleled physical reference collections, and decades of experience. Our approach to the identification of alleged bone and tooth fragments combines a thorough examination of macroscopic and microscopic anatomical examination with microchemical testing, elemental analysis, and vibrational spectroscopy. We look for evidence of processing, and if pertinent, can test for the presence of bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, and urine. Depending on the condition of the specimen, it is often possible to identify the source of the bone or tooth fragment (i.e., type of animal or species).

Whatever unique or unusual questions you may have, Microtrace is equipped to provide you with the answers you need, rigorously supported by scientific evidence.

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