Scientists have developed a new meat DNA test that can screen foods for multiple species - without running the risk of ‘false positives’.

The method, developed by Leatherhead Food Research, is a variant of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) DNA testing. But unlike conventional PCR tests - which test for one species at a time and ‘only find what you are looking for’ - the new test can be used to check foods for several species in one go.

This means it can be used for screening purposes and to detect mislabelling problems that are not currently on the industry’s radar.

The new test was also “faster and more accurate” than other PCR tests, said creator Dr Angus Knight, and did not carry the risk of ‘false positives’.

During the horsemeat scandal, scientists warned PCR tests could occasionally falsely suggest foods contained horse DNA when they did not, sparking unnecessary recalls and consumer concern. For example, an Asda bolognese sauce, made by Greencore, was recalled during Horsegate but later declared a false positive.

The new tests would avoid this thanks to proprietary technology developed by Leatherhead.

The company is now in discussions with retailers and manufacturers about rolling the new tests out in 2015. “We believe it can support the drive to build greater consumer trust,” said Knight, adding the tests would be priced “competitively” and had the potential to replace other forms of meat adulteration tests.