HONG KONG, CHINA - Media OutReach - May 23, 2017 - Vitargent (International) Biotechnology Ltd. ("Vitargent"), known for applying its proprietary "Transgenic Medaka" and "Zebrafish Fish" Embryo Toxicity (FET) testing technology (Testing 2.0) on food and skincare products, introduces the world's first consumer product safety information platform, Test-it™. The platform uses Testing 2.0 biological testing technology to examine consumer product safety and has published the results of the inaugural test project on 115 types of edible oil originated from Hong Kong, China, Italy, the US and other countries. Test results put 49 types of oil in the Green Fish category, denoting the products are excellent in terms of safety; 23 in the Yellow Fish category, indicating their safety level is basic, and 43 are categorized as Red Fish, with safety at sub-optimal standards. More than 70% of the olive oil samples are categorized as Red Fish, and edible oils from Europe turned out to have the lowest performance, with more than 50% of the samples categorized as Red Fish.
Vitargent launched the first-ever consumer product safety information platform Test-it ™, using Testing 2.0 technology for safety assessment on over hundred edible oil.
Test-it ™ hailed as world's first product safety information platform
Pioneered by Vitargent, Test-it ™ (on www.fishqc.com) is hailed as the first in the world to use Testing 2.0 bio-testing technology on consumer products and provide information on consumer product safety. The technology uses fish embryos to examine product toxicity, an increasingly adopted means for toxicity screening. The goal is to enhance the transparency of consumer product safety and help consumers make informed safer product choices based on objective scientific data.
Vitargent's Founder and Chief Commercial Officer Eric Chen said: "Traditional Testing 1.0 and existing regulations only set the basic requirements for market entry. Test-it ™ regularly samples different food items and daily necessities, by purchasing them from supermarkets, chain stores and online stores as a consumer. After Testing 2.0 screening, individual products are categorized as Green Fish, Yellow Fish or Red Fish to help consumers identify product safety." Test-it ™ benchmarks against the international product safety standards of the European Union (EU), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), as well as the national safety standards of the US, Japan and China. Horizontal analyses against similar products are also conducted.
Green Fish means "Excellence " in safety, indicating good performance under screening of acute toxicity, chronic toxicity and banned ingredients. Consumers can rest assured that the products are safe for purchase. Yellow Fish means "Basic" in safety, meaning a product meets the safety baselines in the screening of acute and chronic toxicity and banned ingredients. Consumers are recommended to purchase with caution. Red Fish means "Sub-Optimal" in safety, indicating a product is below standard in one or more criteria in the screening of acute and chronic toxicity and banned ingredients. Consumers are recommended to purchase with extra caution.
Vitargent's Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Tao said: " Test-it ™ is intended to commend excellent companies and products, and motivate below-standard companies and brands to actively improve their production process. This will give consumers greater confidence in making purchases and help brands develop long-term benefits. In the initial stage, Test-it ™ will publish all Green Fish (excellent) products, and will contact the product manufacturers and suppliers of Yellow Fish and Red Fish products to discuss improvement plans."
Test-it ™ releases safety findings of 100-plus edible oils
The first type of Test-it ™ product is edible oil, a daily necessity marred by gutter oil scandals. Vitargent purchased 115 types of edible oil from major supermarket chains, including ParknShop, Wellcome, DCH Food Mart, AEON, City'Super, Fusion and Market Place by Jasons. Samples included products of internationally renowned brands such as Knife Oil, Filippo Berio, Lion & Globe, Casino and others from Hong Kong, Mainland China, Italy, the US and other countries. Based on the test results, 49 of the 115 samples are categorized as Green Fish, 23 as Yellow Fish and 43 as Red Fish.
Vitargent tested 14 categories of commonly used edible oils. The test showed that coconut oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil, canola oil and sesame oil, generally believed to be healthier by Hong Kong consumers, had below average results. Only one out of 5 coconut oil samples, or 20%, is categorized as Green Fish, while 2 samples (40%) are Yellow Fish and 2 (40%) are Red Fish. Similarly, only 7 out of 44 olive oil samples tested (16%) are Green Fish, 7 (16%) are Yellow Fish, and 30 (68%) are Red Fish. All the flaxseed oil, Canola oil and sesame oil tested are categorized Red Fish.
Edible oils from Europe categorized lowest, and price does not reflect safety
By production origin, edible oils made in Europe are lowest in ranking. More than half of the tested products (57%) are Red Fish, and only 26% are categorized Green Fish. Oils made in Asia performed better. About 20% of the Hong Kong brands in the test are Red Fish while more than 50% are categorized Green Fish, which are safe choices for consumers.
The test results also show that expensive oil may not be safer. The median price of the 115 samples is HK$87.4 per litre. Of the 40 brands priced at above $130 per litre, six are categorized Green Fish, five Yellow Fish and 29 Red Fish. Of the 31 samples in the price range of $50-$130 per litre, 13 are categorized Green Fish, eight Yellow Fish and 10 Red Fish. Among the 44 samples priced below HK$50 per litre, 30 are categorized Green Fish, 10 Yellow Fish and four Red Fish. The cheapest oil costs $15 per litre while the most expensive oil, from Italy, costs 140 times more at HK$2,084 per litre.
In the random sampling, two edible oil samples that Vitargent bought off the shelf had passed their use-by date. One of these samples is categorized Red Fish, indicating toxicity level higher than some known gutter oil.
Test-it ™ technology surpasses standard edible oil indicators
Mr Tao was astounded by the results. "Theoretically, edible oils in the market should have passed traditional regulatory checks before they were put on the shelf. However, Test-it ™ shows up all toxicants in the products," he said. "Under current regulations, edible oil is tested for a limited number of factors such as Benzo(a)pyrene, aflatoxins, acid value, peroxide value, total polar compounds and heavy metals. However, there may be other substances such as highly toxic lipid peroxidation products, pesticide residue, plant toxins and preservatives not covered by the regulatory standards. Excessive intake of these substances may have adverse effects on the human body, or cause cancer over the long-term. Test-it™ uses cutting-edge biological testing technology to cover extra potential harmful substances outside of the regulatory standards. This contributes to enhancing consumer product safety significantly."
Revolutionary Testing 2.0 technology traces all harmful substances
The general public is deeply concerned with food and consumer products safety as scandals of rotten meat, gutter oil, high lead content in drinking water and cancer-causing substances in skincare and cosmetics continue to make headlines. WHO and UN reports suggest we are surrounded by more than 100,000 chemicals in our daily life  . Some are linked with health problems like cancer, infertility, precocious puberty, obesity, neurological disorders  . However, the precision rate of traditional chemical toxicity testing, still at the Testing 1.0 level, is as low as 20%  . Due to cost and time constraints, only 5 to 10 toxicants can be screened at one time through such traditional test methods. Other harmful substances not covered by standard testing will be missed in the screening. This means products that have passed traditional testing methods may still contain harmful substances not covered by existing screening practices. This may pose serious threats to consumers.
Prof. Ian Cotgreave, advisor of Vitargent's international scientists committee and professor of toxicology of Karolinska Institutet, said: "The world faces very serious safety problems with food and consumer products. However, existing standard tests fail to effectively screen a number of toxicants and estrogens harmful to public health. Vitargent's patented Zebrafish Embryo Toxicity Test technologies have been extensively applied in pharmaceutical R&D in the past 10 years. As 84% of genes known to be associated with human diseases have a Zebrafish counterpart  , Zebrafish can be used to mimic human metabolic system. Therefore, substances harmful to Zebrafish might also be harmful to human beings. When a Zebrafish embryo is exposed to toxicants, it will develop adverse reaction within 48 hours. Vitargent's Testing 2.0 technology is a new beacon in the world. It can prompt industries to be more conscious of product safety and redefine global consumer product safety rules."
Vitargent is the only ISO17025 accredited company in Asia that provides FET testing technologies. The test results are officially recognised in more than 100 countries. The patented technology has been adopted by international certification service SGS and TÜ V (Technischer Ü berwachungsverein). T Ü V 's executive VP of the food services cluster Stanley Hung welcomed Vitargent's Testing 2.0 technology. "We appreciate Vitargent's leading position in fish embryo testing technologies and how such technologies complement existing chemical testing. We also believe in the capabilities of its international scientists committee and its market development potential. We will endeavour to promote the cutting-edge technologies to different industries and government organisations, and contribute to enhancing overall product safety."
Vitargent plans to test a different product category every month in the next 12 months, some examples may include coffee, ice-cream, milk, yogurt, face cream, facial masks, lipstick, lip balm, foundation, toothpaste, baby food and baby skincare products. Results of the tests will be published on the Test-it™ platform.
Established in 2010, Vitargent is a startup backed by institutional investors and is shaking up the traditional product testing safety standards. Our vision is "Smarter Testing, Safer Products, Better World". The company's international scientists committee is formed of world-class scientists from the US, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. These committee members join together to establish and promote various international standards .
Vitargent is an award-winning company with both local and international recognitions, which include The Grand Prix of the 43rd International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva, HSBC Young Entrepreneur Awards, Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition, Korean Woman Inventor Award, Middle East International Invention Fair Gold Medal, WIPO Gold medal for inventors, Hong Kong Awards for Industries--Technology Achievement, and The Economist Innovation and Awards Summit. Our technology was featured as the only pioneering innovation from Hong Kong at The World Economic Forum. We are recognised as a "Technology Showcase Programme over the past decade" by the Hong Kong government, and Unreasonable Impact Asia Pacific by Unreasonable Group and Barclays.
Our mission is to combine our scientific expertise with social responsibility to improve consumer product safety and protect our environment; and to help our clients create differentiation with safer and better products through innovative science, affordable prices and great service. Our team has developed proprietary testing technologies based on transgenic Medaka Fish and Zebrafish embryos. In 2013 Vitargent received the international standard ISO17025 Accreditation, and is the only test centre in Asia that can provide fish embryo toxicity (FET) testing with testing results officially recognised in more than 100 countries. It is now serving international testing organisations, leading international cosmetics groups, food and beverage conglomerates and various government departments around the world. With the firm support of these entities, the technology is being developed as regional and international standards.
Appendix -- Vitargent's w orld-Leading biological testing technology Testing 2.0
1. Medaka testing for chronic toxicants
Vitargent genetically transfers Nobel Prize winning fluorescent proteins into Medaka embryos, stabilised to more than 10 generations in eight years.
The Transgenic Medaka Eleuthero embryo based Estrogen Equivalent Test is a patented technology exclusive to Vitargent. Estrogenic Endocrine Disruptors (including pesticides, veterinary drugs, antibiotics, hormones, plasticisers, persistent organic pollutants etc) disrupt the endocrine system, confirmed to cause health issues including cancers, infertility, precocious puberty, IQ reduction, neurological disorders and diabetes. WHO, the UN and USEPA believe that endocrine disruptors have become the third leading threat to human, biodiversity and environment, after the greenhouse effect of global warming and depletion of the ozone layer.
After pretreatment, samples are tested with transgenic fish embryos. When chronic toxicants are detected, the embryo emits green florescent light in various luminous intensity. Florescence intensity can quantify toxicants, enabling evaluation of human health risks according to WHO/FAO standard.
2. Zebrafish testing for acute toxicants
Zebrafish embryo toxicity test technologies made cover story in world-renowned science magazine Nature . According to the National Institutes of Health, 84% of genes known to be associated with human diseases have a Zebrafish counterpart. Therefore, any substance that is toxic to Zebrafish embryos are likely toxic to human. Zebrafish is proven to have a capacity to screen over 1,000 toxicants, and is being widely utilised in biomedical safety and efficacy evaluation. The presence of toxin will cause abnormal symptoms in fish embryos, such as head tumour, tail tumour, heart swelling and even immediate death in serious conditions.
After pretreatment, products are tested with Zebrafish embryos to identify the level of concentration that will cause 50% of fatality of embryos in the test (known as LC50). Definition of fatality in the tests is regulated and conforms with ISO15088 and OECD TG236 standards.
 Substance Registry Services Fact Sheet, available at ofmpub.epa.gov/sor_internet/registry/substreg/educationalresources.
 Frequently asked questions about MICROTOX® for drinking water surveillance.
 Howe, K. et al. The zebrafish reference genome sequence and its relationship to the human genome. Nature 496, 498--503 (2013).