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In September, the EU and China signed a bilateral agreement to protect 100 European Geographical Indications (GIs) in China and 100 Chinese GIs in the European Union against misuse of the product's name and imitation. The EU list of GIs to be protected in China includes iconic GI products such as Cava, Champagne, Feta, Irish whiskey, Scotch Whisky, West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, Münchener Bier, Ouzo, Polska Wódka, Porto, Prosciutto di Parma and Queso Manchego. Among the Chinese GI products, the list includes for example Pixian Dou Ban (Pixian Bean Paste), Anji Bai Cha (Anji White Tea), Panjin Da Mi (Panjin rice) and Anqiu Da Jiang (Anqiu Ginger). The agreement is expected to enter into force at the beginning of 2021, after adoption by the Council of Ministers. The Agreement should boost European agri-food exports to China, already worth €14.5 billion in 2019. It is also a good measure of China’s ambition to protect intellectual property rights more robustly.

Read the article, and the European Commission's Press Release, which also gives the full lists of the 100 European GIs and the 100 Chinese GIs. 

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European honey producers have seen the worst harvest in decades, and it is predicted that this year will see a 40% drop in honey production. Although climate change has disrupted the flowering season, adverse weather conditions in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, where the majority of honey is produced, has also taken its toll on honey production. European honey producers only provide 64% of European consumption, the difference being made up by cheaper imports, which will make up the loss of European production. Copa-Cogeca (Union of farmers and their cooperatives in the European Union) has already called on the European Commission to set up an emergency action plan to help the 650,000 beekeepers with 10 million hives in the EU to survive in the future.

Read the article and the Copa-Cogena Press Release

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Recently, herbs and spices have been found to be susceptible to adulteration and fraud. In this feasibility study, the composition of capsaicoinoids and carotenoids has been determined and used as markers for the authenticity of paprika. Capsaicinoids and carotenoids were determined in 136 paprika samples, from different origins (La VeraMurcia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic) and types (hot, sweet, and bittersweet) using ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry using atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (UHPLC–APCI–HRMS). The composition of capsaicinoids and carotenoids was analysed chemometrically through a classification decision tree built by partial least squares regression−discriminant analysis (PLS−DA) models and reached a prediction classification rate of 80.9%.

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This method has been developed so that it can differentiate between a slaughtering method that conforms with Islamic rights, and therefore can be certified as Halal, and one which does not.. Kosher slaughter and Islamic rights, Zabiha (ZA) slaughtering procedure involves the severing of the poultry's throat with a single stroke of a sharp knife thus cutting a carotid artery, jugular vein, windpipe, and esophagus without injuring the spinal cord. Non-Zabiha (NZ) slaughter may involve completely cutting off the neck of the animal during slaughter, and hence detaching the spinal cord. Liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS/MS) based non-targeted metabolomics of chicken meat samples were evaluated to differentiate meat samples based on slaughtering methods. Forty samples were grouped into equal numbers of Zabiha (cutting neck without detaching spinal cord) and Non-Zabiha (completely detaching neck). A volcano plot revealed at least 150 features found significantly different between the two groups having ≥ 2-fold changes in intensities with p-values ≤ 0.05. Among them 5 identified metabolites and 25 unidentified metabolites have clear differences in peak intensities. After chemometric analysis, the 5 metabolites were considered as potentially significant markers to differentiate between the two methods of slaughter.

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In this article, Emily Miles, Head of the Food Standards Agency, and Prof Chris Elliott, Queens University Belfast, discuss the impact of reduced funding to local authorities (LAs) at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) Food Safety Conference. Emily Miles noted the 20% reduction in food professionals (Environmental Health Officers and Trading Standards Officers) for 2020/21 and what it might mean for food safety, and the effect on our future trade after Brexit. Prof Elliott spoke about the seven principles of food integrity: food should be safe; authentic; nutritious; systems used to produce food should be sustainable; ethical; we have to respect and protect the environment and all those people who produce food.The budget cuts for sampling and testing could lead to a two-tier system in the UK, where large food retailers and manufacturers continue their own very effective food integrity assurance, but leave the SMEs in a very vulnerable position.

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Pistachio is one of the most expensive nuts, and is prone to adulteration because of its high commodity value. The most common adulterants are green pea and peanuts with added colours. Turkish researchers have developed a non-targeted method using portable FT-IR (Fourier Transform infared) and UV–Visible spectrometers.  Samples of pistachio granules were adulterated with green pea and peanut at concentrations from 5-40% w/w, and their spectra taken using  a portable FT-IR spectrometer and a conventional UV–Vis spectrometer, which were analysed by Soft Independent Modeling of Class Analogy (SIMCA) to generate classification algorithms to authenticate pistachio. Partial Least Square Regression (PLSR) was used to predict the concentrations of adulterants, and both instruments gave excellent predictions of adulterant levels.

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8169733900?profile=RESIZE_400xItalian researchers have developed a method based on FT-NIR (Fourier transform - near infrared) spectroscopy combined with chemometrics to authenticate pasta made exclusively with durum wheat. In addition, the objective of this study was to verify that the pasta was made with 100% Italian durum wheat. The 361 samples used were pasta marketed in Italy and made with durum wheat cultivated in Italy (n = 176 samples), and on pasta made with mixtures of wheat cultivated in Italy and/or abroad (n = 185 samples). The samples were analysed by FT-NIR spectroscopy coupled with supervised classification models. Good performance results of the validation set (sensitivity of 95%, specificity and accuracy of 94%) were obtained using principal component-linear discriminant analysis (PC-LDA), which clearly demonstrated the high prediction capability of this method. 

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This open access paper provides a comprehensive review of the definition and composition of honey, the different types of adulteration, common sugar adulterants, and detection methods of honey adulteration. It also discusses some of adverse health aspects of honey adulteration. 

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McCormick Responds to QUB's Sage Findings

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On 23 October, I posted the study carried out by IGFS at Queens University Belfast (QUB) on behalf of the Food Industry Intelligence Network (FIIN), which showed that 25% of the sage herb samples tested were adulterated, and the level of bulking ranged from 29 -58%. Now the Vice President of McCormick has responded to the results of this small survey.

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Basmati rice is a high value popular type of rice based on its distinctive organoleptic properties. Approval of varieties meeting the specification laid down for Basmati rice is undertaken by the Indian and Pakistani Export Authorities, and these have been accepted in a UK industry/enforcement Code of Practice (COP). Originally 15 varieties were approved to be marketed as Basmati, 9 of which are allowed to be imported tariff free into the EU as brown rice. New varieties have been bred for higher yield, disease and pest resistance, as well as salt tolerance, and 25 new varieties have been added to the COP. This has resulted in the need for new DNA markers to be investigated as the original DNA microsatellite method cannot identify the new varieties effectively. This study details whether single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) and insertion/deletion (InDel) variations developed into KASP™ (Kompetitive Allele Specific PCR; LGC Biosearch Technologies) were more effective DNA markers for all the approved varieties of Basmati rice. The results provide a method that distinguishes 37 Basmati varieties from all others using between 3 and 8 KASP markers out of a pool of 98 informative markers. A reduced set of 24 KASP markers could determine whether a sample belongs to one of eight family groups.

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Eurofins has announced the launch of the TOFoo (True Organic Food) project to develop analyses and services to ensure the authenticity and integrity of organic food products. The project will be rolled out over five and a half years, with a EUR 17.3 million budget. The project has secured over EUR 8 million in funding from the Future Investment Programme, run by the General Secretariat for Investment (SGPI), and operated by Bpifrance on behalf of the French Government. The project has five partners from the food industry, laboratory analysis and digital sectors, and four partners from academia.

Read the Press release here

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This interesting overview of methods to detect adulteration of different spices is presented in an easy understable way. There is an interview with a Belgian spice trader outlining the scale of the problem. The various authenticity methods used to detect spice adulteration are described by scientists at the European Commission's Joint  Research Centre - Fraud Detection and Prevention Unit in Geel, Belgium.

Read the article and watch the video below:

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Blockchain technology has emerged as a promising technology providing numerous benefits that improve trust in the extended food supply chains (FSCs). It can enhance traceability, enable more efficient recall, and aids in risk reduction of counterfeits and other forms of illicit trade. This open-access review presents the findings from a systematic study of 61 journal articles. The main benefits of blockchain technology in FCSs are improved food traceability, enhanced collaboration, operational efficiencies and streamlined food trading processes. Potential challenges include technical, organisational and regulatory issues. The review also examines the theoretical and practical implications of the study, and presents several ideas for future research.  

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This study compared the capabilities of three spectroscopic techniques as fast screening platforms for honey authentication purposes. Multifloral honeys were collected in the three main honey-producing regions of Argentina over four harvesting seasons to give a total of 502 samples. Spectra were run on each of the samples with FT-MIR ( Fourier transform mid-infrared), NIR (near infrared) and FT-Raman  (Fourier transform Raman)  spectroscopy. The spectroscopic platforms were compared on the basis of the classification performance achieved under a supervised chemometric approach. Very good classification scores to distinguish the three Argentian regions were achieved by all the spectroscopies, and a nearly perfect classification was provided by FT-MIR. The results obtained in the present work suggested that FT-MIR had the best potential for fingerprinting-based honey authentication, and demonstrated that sufficient accuracy levels to be commercially useful can be reached.

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Consumer Survey Reveals Concern About Food Fraud

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Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC)  conducted a survey  which questioned over 1,750 consumers in the US, UK and China. The effect of Covid-19 was a major concern with consumers, and  73% of respondents believe that the pandemic will impact on the viability of the global supply chain. Moreover, 71% think it will affect global access to food.  Other issues of concern were food safety and food fraud, with 60% of respondents said they are worried about keeping food safe from toxins and bacteria, and 58% revealed they are concerned about preventing food fraud.    

 
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Adulteration of the Herbs Is Still Occurring

In 2015, IGFS (Institute for Global Food Securty) at Queens University Belfast in cooperation with the Consumer Organisation Which? conducted a survey of oregano, which found 25% of the samples tested were adulterated. This year, a small follow-up survey was carried out on 20 samples of oregano, and only one sample was found to be adulterated, which clearly shows a huge improvement from the earlier 2015 survey.

In parallel with the survey on oregano, in August and September this year, a snapshot survey of the herb sage was undertaken, and 19 samples bought from major online retailers; all the well-known UK supermarkets; and smaller, independent shops such as ethnic grocery stores. In this survey, just over 25 percent of all the samples tested were adulterated. The level of bulking out of the sage samples with non-food materials such as olive leaves and other tree leaves, ranged from 29% to a staggering 58%. However, none of the brands sold by the big UK supermarket chains was found to be fraudulent, and only some sage sold by online retailers and smaller independents was found to have been adulterated. 

Read the article or IGFS's News Release

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Thanks very much to one of our new Centres of Expertise GfL for bringing to our attention this German investigative TV show Frontal 21 addressing the very important topic of the use of illegal pesticides.

This is another example of where an authenticity issue can have a very direct effect on food safety. The consequences for nature and humans are incalculable. Nobody knows what these pesticides are made of, which and how much toxins they contain.

The Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety has already examined dozens of suspicious samples this year and discovered many counterfeit or unapproved pesticides. In the first half of the year alone, Europol has seized over 1,300 tons of illegal pesticides, a new record. The European police authority estimates the proportion of counterfeits in the total amount of all pesticides at 14 to 15 percent.

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The Food Standards Agency's National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) has received two reports of organised meat theft which may have food safety consequences for consumers. One report from a major retailer was about the theft of meat and poultry items by a driver network. The theft is believed to have taken place over a considerable time period, and there is concern that the stolen products may have entered the human food chain via a restaurant. As the stolen meat may have spent some time outside the cold cgain, it may have posed a risk to human health.

The second report concerns an organised group obtaining meat fraudulently from meat processors and traders, where a woman placed orders for meat products over the phone, and paid for them using several credit cards, which later turned out be stolen outside the UK. The woman has then organised for a taxi to transport the meat to fictional addresses in London and Southend-On-Sea, again paying for the taxi by means of a credit card. The taxi was later diverted to another address in Southend and, in one case, the meat was loaded into a van. Subsequently, both the meat purveyor and the taxi firms were notified that the payments made on the credit cards were fraudulent, meaning they were required to refund the transactions.

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Grass-based milk production is a major contributor to Irish agricultural output, and the terms "grass-fed" and "pasture-raised" are appreciated by many consumers as a more sustainable and welfare friendly means of producing milk. This study characterised the Irish raw milk pool using SIRA of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and sulphur. Authentic raw milk samples were collected from 50 farms on five occasions over 13 months. δ13C values reflected a high level of grass input, and values increased with increasing cereal concentrate feed input (P < 0.001). δ18O values were most negative in spring. There was a significant interaction between feed and season for δ13C and δ15N values (P < 0.05), with the impact of concentrate feeding most evident in spring. The isotopic ratio values of the Irish milk pool may serve as authenticity markers with the potential to discriminate Irish milk and dairy products from similar commodities from other countries.

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