Government will clamp down on the DIY paternity test 'cowboys'

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Do-it-yourself paternity testing kits are to face a clamp down by ministers with a new code of practice aimed at stopping cowboy DNA testing companies operating over the internet.

Do-it-yourself paternity testing kits are to face a clamp down by ministers with a new code of practice aimed at stopping cowboy DNA testing companies operating over the internet.

Ministers are expected to draw up plans for new government standards to outlaw DNA testing by fathers using samples from mothers and children which are not verifiable or gained with consent.

Home DNA testing kits are now widely available on the internet for up to $300 and offer testing of paternity using cheek swabs or DNA tests using strands of hair.

Most laboratory tests on DNA samples involve blood samples of the mother, child and alleged father. But do-it-yourself kits enable fathers to examine whether the child has their DNA in the living room using a kit sent in the post.

But Ministers are concerned that people are being exploited and that "the interests of the child" are not being considered.

There has been a sharp rise in the use of DNA testing to resolve disputes over paternity in the UK since the Child Support Agency began intervening to make absent fathers contribute financially to their children's upbringing.

The Department of Health is planning to instruct the Child Support Agency, which often uses DNA testing to confirm the identity of the father, to outlaw the use of paternity kits which do not meet the government's new standards.

A government source said: "There are some unscrupulous internet companies who are flogging paternity tests at inflated prices. The Department of Health wants to issue a new code on paternity testing to protect children from unscrupulous companies."

The move follows calls from MPs, including David Hinchliffe, chairman of the House of Commons Health select committee, for a ban on all home-testing kits.

Mr Hinchliffe has questioned whether the test results from the kits are reliable. The kits compare the DNA of father and child, and sometimes the mother, to determine whether there is a genetic match.

The Government's code of practice will fall short of a complete ban on tests bought over the internet but is likely to outlaw results which use cheek and hair samples obtained without permission.

The Government code is expected to ensure that a proper "chain of custody" of the DNA can be determined and that the results are verified or witnessed by an independent person. Ministers will also ensure that the DNA samples can be independently confirmed as genuine.

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