food fraud (92)

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 This paper reports the results of an international cooperative research project to address potential food fraud issues related to rice supplies in China, India, Vietnam and Ghana, and as rice fraud manifests differently in each country, tailored solutions were required. A portable NIR (Near Infra-Red) instrument with chemometrics calibrated to the authentic rice, was used as a fingerprint screening method. Non-conforming or suspicious samples were analysed in a second stage (confirmatory test) using laboratory-based gas chromatograph-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) fingerprinting methods, which were developed to differentiate between: high value Basmati rice varieties and their potential adulterants; six Geographic Indicated protected rice varieties from specific regions of China; various qualities of rice in Ghana and Vietnam; as well locally produced and imported rice in Ghana. In addition, an inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICPMS) method was developed to support the Chinese rice varieties methods, as well as a liquid chromatography quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC-QTOFMS) method for quality differentiation in Vietnam. This two stage approach permits a much higher level of on-site screening of rice samples followed by the laboratory corroborating mass spectrometry analysis to assist decision making in accepting rice supplies. 

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Facing up to food fraud in a pandemic

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The global disruption caused by COVID‐19 has, and will continue to have, a generic impact on the likelihood of many food fraud risks. It is important that food businesses keep their vulnerability assessments and risk management plans under continual review in light of ‘COVID‐effects’ to assess whether they apply to their own supply chain. These effects are layered onto existing macro‐economic trends, such as the increase in plant‐based foods, direct online sales and supply shortages due to conflict or climatic events.

In this article, John Points and Louise Manning, both members of the IFST's COVID‐19 Advisory Group, assess the evidence for an increase in food fraud as a result of the COVID‐19 pandemic and conclude that:

It is very difficult to obtain objective evidence of the incidence of food fraud in a specific sector, or to determine objective trends. Evidence based on reported incidence is fraught with caveats and needs to be interpreted with care. These caveats notwithstanding, there is no evidence within the Horizonscan database that COVID‐19 has yet led to an increase in food fraud.
 
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This article in New Food Magazine discusses how Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) and Whole Gene Sequencing (WGS) can assist in detecting and identifying contamination, and also playing an important role in assuring traceability of food products when combined with blockchain along the supply chain. Technology improvements have meant that NGS and WGS have high throughputs at much lower cost than before, and NGS machine can now be used for WGS as well.

The genomic information derived by these techniques on pathogenic bacterial contamination when combined with data such as the date and place of findings, can help track down the exact sources of contamination and therefore avoid large scale recalls of food products. The role of NGS in obtaining DNA traceability combined with blockchain permits products all the way along the supply chain to be traced back to their original raw materials whether that be plants or animals. 

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7608193465?profile=RESIZE_710xOfficers in China have siezed more than two tonnes of lemons for trademark violations. The lemons had counterfeit labelling which claimed the fruits were produced by fruit brand Utifrutti. Their shipping containers also bore the company's logo.

This marks the second seizure of counterfeit lemons claiming to be Unifrutti products since April.

Read the full story on Securing Industry here.

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7607620852?profile=RESIZE_710xMichel Neilsen, professor of analytical chemistry at Wageningen University & Research, was recently interviewed about an EU-funded project to develop smartphone-based food screening capabilities.

The FoodSmartphone project aims to develop smartphone-based (bio)analytical sensing and diagnostics tools for simplified on-site rapid pre-screening of food. The three-year project is scheduled to wrap up in December.

Nielsen explains that the project works to develop a device that can be attached or connected to a shopper's smartphone to test for allergens, pesticides, and whether the product is organic. The team hopes to empower shoppers to test food at the shelf.

The interview was recently published by Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation magazine from the European Commission, and can be read here.

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7605897080?profile=RESIZE_710xPublished last week in the journal Food Control, researchers from Queens University Belfast and ABF Food Group compiled a comprehensive review of food fraud terminologies and mitigation guides. 

The review found guidance and terminology which could be used throughout the food industry, including guidance documents on food fraud prevention and mitigation which also touch on the supply chain.

The article, which is not open access at this time, can be accessed here

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7553664877?profile=RESIZE_710xUS Department of Agriculture has published a proposed rule, aiming to close the "gaps in the current regulations to build consistent certification practices to deter and detect organic fraud."

Part of the proposal will aim to reduce businesses exempted from organic certification. improving traceability with better recordkeeping, and standardizing inspections of organic operation sites.

Read more on the proposed rule in the Food Navigator story.

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The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are being felt across the food supply network.

The Chairman of our Advisory Board, Sterling Crew, has published a paper for the IFST, in which he reviews the potential food authenticity challenges created by the pandemic and the mitigation of the emerging risks and threats.

Many of the risk factors for food fraud have increased across the global food supply network due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Steps taken following the horsemeat incident and the Elliott report have strengthened the UK’s food supply network authenticity controls and helped to mitigate vulnerability to COVID-19 related fraud..Chris Elliott

The pandemic has highlighted some of the weaknesses in the nature and complexity of the global food network. The UK food industry must assure the authenticity of food by continuing to minimise the vulnerability to food fraud , by building resilience to possible future shocks and by mitigation of the emerging authenticity risks and created by COVID-19.

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6695463089?profile=RESIZE_400xFood Standards Scotland (FSS) has issued a Press Release highlighting to food and drink businesses in Scotland to be alert for potential food crime activity in their supply chains, as its Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU) is aware, via recent reports, that  COVID-19 circumstances has created a factor or motivation for food crime. It is, therefore, advising businesses to remain vigilant about their food supply chains, and recommends they refer to a joint guide, developed with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Food Standards Agency on improving fraud resilience for food and drink businesses. 

Read the FSS Press Release

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India is Facing a Serious Food Fraud Problem

5758891462?profile=RESIZE_400xThe FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) analysed 106,459 food samples across India in 2018-19, and found over 15.8% of the food samples were sub-standard, 3.7% unsafe, and 9% mislabelled. The FSSAI have accused 10 Indian states of being unable to ensure food security for consumers as they lack the workforce and adequate food testing laboratory infrastructure. In addition, a research report by Uttra Pradesh based Harcourt Butler Technical University found 70% of adulterated mustard oil in markets in Kanpur, a city known for its important markets for edible oil.

Read the article with further examples here

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5758031681?profile=RESIZE_400x The publication of the EU Food Fraud Network 2019 Annual Report was announced on May 19.The European Commission has given details of the proceduresof the Administrative Assistance and Cooperation System (AAC), and illustrated this with an example of an olive oil investigation. The AAC is an IT system developed and managed by the European Commission. An EU country can contact the competent authorities of another EU country and share information in a secure manner, which can lead to administrative actions, administrative sanctions or judicial proceedings. This exchange of information is an essential element for effective cross border investigation and for strategic assessment of the threat of fraud, which is at the heart of the exchange of information of the Food Fraud Network.

The 2019 Annual Report reveals that the top category of food investigated was fats and oils, with 44 recorded instances of administrative and investigative actions. Read the article here

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As food is now sourced globally, it is important that the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has a good understanding of the global drivers of food fraud (root causes of why food fraud incidents occur) that impact the UK and which of the available tools can help it best protect the UK food supply from these influences.

 A Defra funded project is in progress to address these needs. A literature review and expert workshop, held in January 2020, identified food fraud drivers and food fraud mitigation tools.

The aim of this survey is to get your views on the outputs of the literature review and expert workshop so that the most commonly used tools can be selected for evaluation in phase 2 of the Defra project.

The survey will take 10 minutes or less to complete:

Complete Survey

We thank you in advance for your assistance and kindly request that the survey is completed by Friday 19 June 2020.

The Food Authenticity Network Team

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The European Commission is still developing an integrated system to combat food fraud to match that of the safety of food and feed in the EU. The European Commission (EC) Knowledge Centre for Food Fraud and Quality (part of the Joint Research Centre) is charged with the provision of scientific insight for the policy making of EC services dealing with food fraud, and the creation of expert networks with the competent authorities of the EU Member States. The Centre undertook a stocktaking exercise of what works well, and which areas will need improvement for competent authorities to fight food fraud. This exercise highlighted (i) the development of early warning systems, (ii) the availability of compositional databases of vulnerable foods, and (iii) the creation of centres of competence as priorities for further action.

Read the full article here 

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UK POSTnote on Food Fraud is Published

5253502081?profile=RESIZE_584xThe Food Authenticity Network is proud to have contributed to the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) note on Food Fraud.

The POSTnote provides an overview of food fraud, including its drivers and impacts. It discusses methods for food authenticity testing, broader strategies to prevent food fraud and impacts of EU exit.

 Key Points

  • Foods that are commonly reported to be adulterated include herbs and spices, coffee, seafood, honey and olive oil.
  • In addition to affecting consumer choice and confidence, food fraud may pose a public health risk. In 2016, a restaurant owner was sentenced to prison after substituting almond powder with mixed nut powder containing peanuts, resulting in the death of a customer.
  • Other impacts on consumers include loss of nutrition and inadvertent consumption of foods that are normally restricted for ethical or religious reasons.
  • Businesses may suffer financial losses following food fraud incidents due to factory closure, product recalls or destruction of contaminated ingredients or products. Companies may also suffer reputational damage.
  • A range of UK laws and regulation contribute to preventing food fraud. The majority of law relating to food in the UK is based on the Food Safety Act 1990, which prohibits food which is not of the nature, substance or quality that consumers would expect, and describing or presenting food in a false or misleading way.
  • Public bodies responsible detecting and mitigating food fraud include local authorities, government departments and regulators. In England, Defra is responsible for policy and legislation on food labelling and composition. It is also responsible for the Government’s food authenticity research programme, which identifies risks to food authenticity and develops and validates food testing methods.
  • Strategies to detect and prevent food fraud broadly fall into two categories: scientific analysis to test the authenticity of foods and broader mitigation strategies including intelligence gathering, vulnerability assessments and economic analysis strategies.
  • Each food business has its own approach to testing the authenticity of its products. Food retailers often have contractual agreements with suppliers that require them to carry out authenticity testing of their ingredients. Large food retailers, such as supermarkets, typically have their own routine monitoring programmes.
  • There are a variety of analytical techniques that can be used to test for adulterated food and drink and often a combination of methods will be used.
  • Testing can be targeted (whereby the analysis looks for a pre-defined characteristic, such as a specific adulterants or section of DNA), or non-targeted (whereby multiple measurements of a sample are taken using a variety of techniques to obtain a sample’s ‘chemical fingerprint’)
  • Barriers to tackling food fraud relate to the cost and capability of authenticity testing, perpetrators changing their mode of operation, and a complex regulatory enforcement system.
  • The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said that there is no evidence to suggest the UK will be at more risk from food crime after the Brexit transition period. However, some stakeholders have raised concerns that EU exit may impact the UK’s vulnerability to food fraud.
  • Concerns relate to checks on food imports, the UK’s food testing capacity and the extent of UK access to EU food fraud intelligence networks.

Read full POSTnote.

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An interlaboratory comparison (ILC) was organised by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre to provide an opportunity for interested laboratories to assess and compare their competence in determining the 13C/12C ratios of fructose, glucose, di- and trisaccharides in honey by using liquid chromatography – isotope ratio mass spectrometry (LC-IRMS).

Fourteen laboratories participated in the ILC and tested six honey samples. The majority of the participating laboratories demonstrated the proficient use of the applied LC-IRMS for mono-, di- and trisaccharides in honey, which will allow them to apply the technique for detecting adulterated honey samples within the scope of the method. Further guidance on the proper detection and evaluation of the oligosaccharide fraction will be needed to provide proof that the method is fit for compliance assessment of honey with purity criteria.

In general, the results of the ILC demonstrate that LC-IRMS is a suitable technique for determining carbon isotope ratios of fructose, glucose, di- and trisaccharides in honey with sufficient precision and it is fit for assessing whether sugar syrups have been added to honey, within the limits of the method.

Read the full report.

 

 

 

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The Government Chemist, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) held a UK seminar on honey authenticity: determination of exogenous sugars by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) on 13 November 2019, which was attended by 57 people representing stakeholder organisations.

The aim of the seminar was to bring together stakeholders involved in honey production and analysis to discuss this topic and ideally come to an agreed position. It was anticipated that the output of this seminar would help inform future UK government policy on the use of NMR for honey authenticity.

The seminar consisted of a series of presentations from invited experts that set the scene for the workshop part of the day, which involved participants splitting into four representative groups to discuss the suitability of NMR for enforcement purposes and to identify gaps and priorities to assessing the use of NMR for the appraisal of honey authenticity.

The report details the aims and outputs of the seminar.Honey authenticity: determination of exogenous sugars by NMR Seminar Report (PDF, 913KB, 19 pages)

Presentations are also available

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European standardisation in the field of food and feed contributes to improving levels of food safety and protecting the health of consumers. CEN (European Committee for Standardization) provides validated test methods that are used by the food industry and by the competent public authorities for official control purposes and by food- and feed-producing companies for internal checks. 

Food authenticity was identified as a new area of interest and a Technical Committee was established to standardise methods in this area. At its first meeting in 2019, this committee established a series of working groups (WG) within which methods would be standardised:

WG1:   Concepts, terms and definitions

WG2:   Species analyses using DNA-based methods

WG3:   Coffee and coffee products

WG4:   NMR analysis

WG5:   Stable Isotope Analysis

WG6:   Validation concepts of non-targeted methods

It has just been announced that the UK has been voted to lead on Working Group 1 (concepts, terms and definitions):

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Dr James Donarski from Fera Science Ltd will be the Convener and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will provide the Secretariat function.

The development of a common language for concepts, terms and definitions associated with food authenticity is important to securing the integrity of food and mitigating food fraud, facilitating international trade.

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4817817072?profile=RESIZE_710xTwo fraudulent horsemeat shipments were seized in Europe last week, marking the start of an expected surge in food fraud.

The seizures have reinforced concerns among food safety experts that criminals will target food supply chains disrupted by the pandemic.

The horsemeat samples were held in the Netherlands and Denmark, with one intended for “unauthorised placing on the market,” according to the EU’s RASFF food safety register.

“You’ll see that regulators across Europe will probably now be looking at horsemeat and the labelling of it much more closely because those two cases have been identified,” said Louise Manning, professor of agri-food and supply chain security at Royal Agricultural University.

It was “unusual” to have two horsemeat seizures in as many days, she said, though it was unclear whether it was due to increased fraud activity or greater vigilance.

The risk of food crime has soared during the pandemic as the collapse of foodservice and the closure of meat processing plants has created a dramatic imbalance in supply and demand.

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4760208496?profile=RESIZE_400xIGFS, Queens University Belfast working with ABP have analysed 413 fraud reports in the beef supply chain between 1997 and 2017 .published in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and HorizonScan to determine their overall pattern.  Counterfeiting was the most common type of fraud in the beef industry; it accounted for 42.9% of all reports documented. When reports were classified by area in the supply chain in the report occurred, 36.4% of all cases were attributed to primary processing, of which 95.5% were counterfeiting cases. Counterfeiting included products manufactured/packed on unapproved premises, or without appropriate inspection or documentation, as well as products issued with fraudulent health certificates.

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GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) has just unveiled Version 2020 of its Benchmarking Requirements under its new Director Erica Sheward. As well as assessing food safety culture when companies are certified, Version 2020 puts more emphasis on food fraud and its mitigation to ensure compliance with both EU and US food law.

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