Mars and IBM Research have teamed up to launch the Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain. Expected to attract additional companies into its fold, the consortium will focus on sequencing the DNA and RNA of simple food samples in order to identify common signs of potential problems and protect consumers and pets from foodborne illness.

According to Mars, researchers will look at whether a built environment, such as a processing facility or a food product, has a specific microbiome. A microbiome is the collection of all microorganisms—such as bacteria and yeasts—that live in a particular place. Once they know what is normal and healthy, they will devise tests to identify microbiomial changes that could lead to food safety risks.

Mars' Petcare division includes the Pedigree, Whiskas, Royal Canin and Banfield brands, among others. More information about the consortium initiative, including an audio podcast about the team behind it, is available on the Mars website.