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food fraud (58)

Kona coffee is regarded as a high value coffee. Hawaiin farmers in the Kona District produce just over 1.2 million kg of coffee beans each year, yet they have estimated that around 9 million kg of coffee beans are sold under the name "Kona". Hence the farmers have launched a lawsuit against some of largest retailers and producers in the country, which pack and sell 19 brands of Kona coffee. The farmers are accusing these companies of selling coffee with a “false designation of origin,” labelling the coffee as Kona despite containing little to no Kona beans at all. Modern isotopic techniques have been applied to confirm coffee origin in the Kona District. Blends of Kona coffee are also common. There is a law in the Kona District that requires that the name Kona can only be used if there is a minimum of 10% Kona coffee in the blend, and the percentage of Kona is declared. Although this law does not apply in other parts of the country, labelling of blends should not be misleading as to the coffee content. There is also another lawsuit filed on behalf of the consumers who have been missold Kona coffee. 

 Read the article here

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The Canadian regulatory framework prohibits selling adulterated food or selling food in a false, misleading or deceptive manner. Although the number of prosecutions for food fraud cases in Canada has steadily decreased in the last decade, except for a spike in 2017, penalties are becoming more severe (i.e. 12-fold increase in fine amount between 2008 and 2018). The majority of cases are in violation with the Food and Drugs Act, Section 5(1), which prohibits “labelling, packaging, treating, processing, selling or advertising food in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression.” In the cases presented in this study, violators having been found guilty were fined between $25,000 and $1.5 million, but none were sentenced to imprisonment.

To improve control over food fraud incidents, the Canadian government should clearly define food fraud and include a definition and description of the different types of fraudulent activities. To support this, the Government of Canada should raise awareness about food fraud among members of the food industry, while requiring expanded testing of raw ingredients and final products for authenticity. A critical step is for the Canadian government to conduct a country-wide food fraud vulnerability assessment to identify the most problematic types of food fraud and then create a country-wide food fraud prevention strategy. Once the prevention strategy is in place, then the most efficient countermeasures and control systems can be considered. The holistic and all-encompassing food fraud prevention focus would be on a coordinated and optimized reduction of the entire fraud opportunity. The creation of government-industry-academia partnerships would also play an essential role in preventing and combating food fraud. It is possible that few – if any – additional government allocation will be required to put the plan in place and begin to make significant improvements.

Read full paper here.

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Food fraud a worldwide problem and many countries continue to commit considerable resource to combat the issue. With the food supply chain now truly global, there is acknowledgement that having agreed definitions for terms commonly associated with food authenticity and food fraud would be of great benefit.

The Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (Nofima), has led a European initiative with the objective of making communication regarding food fraud more precise. Together with food fraud experts (including from the Food Authenticity Network Team) from several European countries including the UK, a European standard has been created that defines many of the English terms and concepts used in connection with food fraud. The words are placed in a hierarchical system that makes it easier to understand how they relate to each other - see image.

The standardisation was coordinated as part of the EU-funded Authent-Net and FoodIntegrity projects. It was published in January 2019 by Standard Norway, and it is also being distributed by several other National Standardisation Bodies in Europe; currently Estonia, Netherlands, and the UK.

This standard represents an important first step in the global standardisation of these terms which will help facilitate trade, combat food fraud and better secure our food supply chains.

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A new article on food fraud public policy development for countries has been published by Dr John Spink (Director of the Food Fraud Initiative at Michigan State University) and the concepts described also apply to companies.

Abstract

Background

Food fraud is generally agreed to be defined as an illegal deception for economic gain using food which includes all types of fraud and all products. Food fraud – including the sub-category of Economically Motivated Adulteration or EMA – is an urgent global public policy issue that requires the development of common definitions and harmonized prevention management systems.

Scope and approach

There is a need to assess the food fraud public policy development steps to understand the current state and more importantly to identify next steps that will support efficient and successful implementation. Since food fraud policy development is in early stages of development, there is a unique opportunity to build upon the current state and make adjustments that will potentially yield tremendous benefit through harmonization and coordination.

The process model steps reviewed include

Problem Identification (Foundation Setting and Definition & Formation), Agenda Setting, Alternate Approaches, Legitimation, Implementation, and Evaluation. The research included a review of the current public policy development stages for the United Kingdom, European Commission, China, United States of America, and then also the Global Food Safety Initiative GFSI.

Key findings and conclusions

The international food fraud policy-making is currently advancing through Agenda Setting, Alternate Approaches, and Legitimation. The next steps for an efficient and effective food fraud policy-making implementation are to: (1) establish the definition and scope, (2) define food fraud as a food agency issue, (3) publish an official government statement focused on prevention (e.g., law, regulation, rule, guidance, etc.), (4) support and fund the policy implementation, and (5) continue to evaluate and adjust the response. Since food fraud policy development is in the early stages of development, there is a unique opportunity to build upon the current state and make adjustments that will potentially yield tremendous benefit through harmonization and coordination.

Full article.

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Issue 9 of the Food Authenticity Network Newsletter is now available and features a foreword from Professor Chris Elliott of Queen's University Belfast.

The newsletter describes how from January 2019, the Network has transitioned from being soley government funded to a public-private partnership led by LGC. Using this vehicle, our ambition is to build a truly global Network by working with governments, industry and other stakeholders from around the world. In support of this vision, the website domain name will transition to an international domain: www.foodauthenticity.global, but we will still operate our present domain www.foodauthenticity.uk in parallel to make sure links keep working.

In this issue, there are three interesting articles as well as our Centre of Expertise Profile:

  • An article on the FAO/IAEA’s new 5 year project on Authenticating High Value Foods.
  • An article from Which? on its consumer and authenticity activities.
  • An article that describes the latest features of the Decernis food fraud database (formerly run by USP)
  • Centre of Expertise Profile, LGC; LGC is proficient across multiple techniques required for food authenticity testing, including rapid / non-targeted / point-of-use methods.

 

 

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RIKILT Wageningen University & Research and the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA)'s Laboratory for Food and Feed Safety will merge into a new institute effective on 1 June 2019. The institute will be called WFSR (Wageningen Food Safety Research) and will be part of RIKILT (Wageningen University & Research). This merger will benefit knowledge in the area of food and feed safety, as well as of food fraud.  WFSR will also function as an international and European national reference laboratory.

Read RIKILT's Press Release

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In this review, Spanish researchers have summarised drivers and examples of the widespread occurrence of food fraud and the analytical methodology to detect it.  Food chain integrity policies are discussed. Future directions in research, concerned not only with food adulterers but also with food safety and climate change, may be useful for researchers in developing interdisciplinary approaches to contemporary
problems.

Read the full review here

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Less than 1% of the world's vanilla flavour comes from real beans.

We are used to seeing vanilla all around us - in candles, cupcakes and creme brulees. But if you’re eating something vanilla-flavoured or smelling something vanilla-scented - it’s probably artificial.

Scientists have been making synthetic vanillin - the compound that gives vanilla its aroma - since the 19th Century. It has been extracted from coal, tar, rice bran, wood pulp and even cow dung.

Today, the vast majority of synthetic vanillin comes from petrochemicals.

It can be 20 times cheaper than the real thing.

The burgeoning interest in “artisanal” food made in a traditional way explains some of the demand for natural vanilla. But much of the rocketing price can be put down to food rules on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Europe and the United States, ice cream labelled “vanilla” must contain natural vanillin extract from vanilla pods. If the flavour comes wholly or partly from artificial sources, the packaging must say “vanilla flavour” or “artificial vanilla”.

Vanilla from vanilla pods will have a taste and potency unique to the area in which it is grown, much like wine. The vanilla from Madagascar has a distinct rummy taste and sweet aroma, which is why ice-cream makers choose it over vanilla from other countries.

And there is more and more pressure on food companies to switch from artificial vanilla to vanilla beans. Big corporations such as Hershey and Nestle have started buying natural vanilla extract for their products in large quantities, which injects more demand into the limited supply chain and raises prices further.

After being immersed in hot water the beans are left to dry in the hot sun

Over the past decade, vanilla prices have gone through dramatic booms and busts.

Madagascar’s 80,000 growers produce more vanilla than any other country - so what happens on the island affects the global industry.

Read full article here.

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On 11 August, the environmental protection service of the Spanish civil guard SEPRONA announced the seizure of 45 tons of illegally treated tuna fish. Four people were investigated and face possible criminal penalties of up to four years in prison for endangering public health, as well as administrative sanctions. The investigation has so far uncovered three companies and three fishing vessels involved in the fraudulent scheme.

Investigators found that frozen tuna only suitable for canning had been illegally treated with substances that enhance the colour and then been diverted to the market to be sold as fresh fish. This treatment can pose a serious public health risk associated with allergic reactions to histamine.

The investigation was coordinated by EUROPOL under the OPSON VII operation, in collaboration with the European Commission and other Member States, which was previously reported on the Food Authenticity Network in May 2018.

Criminal investigations are ongoing.

For more information on this case including the European Commission's contribution and information on other successful outcomes for EU coordinated cases.

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In a move that customers have labelled very fishy, the Chinese government has ruled that rainbow trout can now be labelled and sold as salmon.

The seemingly bizarre move comes after complaints earlier this year that rainbow trout was being mislabelled.

In May, media reported that much of what was sold as salmon in China was actually rainbow trout, to widespread consternation from fish-buyers.

But instead of banning vendors from deceiving their customers, the China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Alliance (CAPPMA), which falls under the Chinese ministry of agriculture, has ruled that all salmonidae fish can now be sold under the umbrella name of “salmon”, reports the Global Times.

Rainbow trout and salmon are both salmonidae fish and look quite similar when filleted. However, salmon live in salt water and rainbow trout live in fresh water.

Read the full article.

 

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Researchers at the University of Nebraska carried out an interesting robust study to examine how information about food fraud incidents affects consumers’ valuation of products. Specifically, the study examined:

- changes in consumers’ valuation of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) after they received information about food fraud,

- how information about food fraud attributable to one country affects valuation for products from other countries, and

- how information about food fraud affects the valuation of olive oils in different price segments.

   Read the article at: consumer EVOO study

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Blockchain technology has the potential to transform the food industry and provide a new way of dealing with food safety and food fraud. This article by Sterling Crew is taken from his article in March edition of Food Science and Technology (free on line for IFST members). It examines its application to enhance transparency, tracking and traceability in the food supply chain, and considers how it could help to build consumer confidence and  give a more secure food supply system.

Read the article here

 

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Food Fraud News, 2018 February: This is an update of our MSU Food Fraud Initiative Activities.

Mission: MSU’s Food Fraud Initiative, an interdisciplinary activity focused on detecting and deterring this public health and economic threat.

Summary for February 2018: Our “MOOC” programs expanded to include a new MSU Food DEFENSE Audit Guide MOOC. Also, we’re excited that for 2018 we have 12 presentations scheduled so far including international locations in Japan, Australia, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Next Month – Education &Training: http://foodfraud.msu.edu/mooc/

1.      FOOD DEFENSE AUDIT GUIDE MOOC (MOOCD) <<NEW>>

a.      2018, March 15 & 22 – 10am ET

2.      FOOD FRAUD AUDIT GUIDE MOOC (MOOCA)

a.      2018, March 6 & 13 – 1pm ET

3.      FOOD FRAUD OVERVIEW MOOC 2018 (MOOC1)

a.      On-demand lectures starting March 30

4.      Graduate Courses, Online, Registration open for Summer Semester: http://foodfraud.msu.edu/resources/programs-courses/

a.      “Packaging for Food Safety” VM/PKG 841

b.      “Product Protection & Anti-Counterfeit Strategy” VM/PKG/CJ 840

Next Month – Outreach & Presentations: http://foodfraud.msu.edu/resources/events/

1.      2018/04/15- Presentation, Food Fraud Prevention for Spices, Annual Meeting, American Spice Trade Association ASTA, Naples, Florida

2.      2018/03/26- Presentation, Food Fraud Terminology Survey, GMA Science Forum, Grocery Manufacturers Association, DC

3.      2018/03/12- Presentation, Food Fraud Audit Guide, FSSC Webinar Series, AM for Europe and Eastern USA, Webinar

4.      2018/03/06 – Moderator, Food Fraud Prevention, GFSI Annual Conference, Tokyo, Japan

5.      2018/03/06 – Presenter, Food Fraud Prevention Strategy Update, GFSI Annual Conference, Tokyo, Japan

 

Publications – Recent Annual: http://foodfraud.msu.edu/resources/publications/

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Following updates to food safety certification standards and publication of new U.S. regulatory requirements, the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention and collaborators undertook a project to (i) develop a scheme to classify food fraud–related adulterants based on their potential health hazard and (ii) apply this scheme to the adulterants in a database of 2,970 food fraud records. The classification scheme was developed by a panel of experts in food safety and toxicology from the food industry, academia, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Categories and subcategories were created through an iterative process of proposal, review, and validation using a subset of substances known to be associated with the fraudulent adulteration of foods. Once developed, the scheme was applied to the adulterants in the database. The resulting scheme included three broad categories: 1, potentially hazardous adulterants; 2, adulterants that are unlikely to be hazardous; and 3, unclassifiable adulterants. Application of the scheme to the 1,294 adulterants in the database resulted in 45% of adulterants classified in category 1 (potentially hazardous). Twenty-seven percent of the 1,294 adulterants had a history of causing consumer illness or death, were associated with safety-related regulatory action, or were classified as allergens. These results reinforce the importance of including a consideration of food fraud–related adulterants in food safety systems.

Read the abstract at: Adulterant hazard classification

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The National Food Crime Unit intercepted consignments of coconut water imported to the UK via the Port of Felixstowe earlier this year and analysed 12 samples. Of those, seven tested positive for sugar from external sources, such as sugar derived from starch, sugar cane or maize.

In total, nearly 400 tonnes of coconut water were seized or removed from the market, though the FSA stressed none of the products posed a risk to public health.

Read the full article from The Grocer here.

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The legislation seeks to provide the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program with between $15m and $20m a year from 2018 to 2023 to upgrade compliance and enforcement actions in the US and abroad. An additional $5m would also be provided to improve tracking of international organic trade and data collection systems to ensure full traceability of imported products.

The proposed legislation follows a report last month, which found the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (has oversight of the National Organic Program) was lacking in its control and oversight of imported products labelled as organic and concluded that some fraudulent and mislabelled products could be slipping through customs into the US.

Read full article here.

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Confectionery containing fair trade or organic cocoa and sugar carry one of the highest risks of adulteration and mislabelling in the food & drink industry, according to Ecovia Intelligence.

Read the full article here.

Visit our Food Fraud Mitigation page for more information about services, reports and guides.

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The ease of adulterating spices combined with the complexity of fraud detection makes the condiments highly vulnerable to fraud, a scientific study has found. Published in the journal Food Control, the research examined fraud vulnerabilities of eight companies in the spices supply chain using the SSAFE food fraud vulnerability assessment tool, which comprises 50 indicators categorised in opportunities, motivations, and control measures to provide a fraud vulnerability profile.
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Download your copy now

Discover the role of the Government Chemist in combating food fraud, learn the outcomes of referee cases, and read about the research carried out in 2016 under the Government Chemist function.

Highlights:

Food safety: evaluated levels of carcinogenic toxins in seeds, nuts and spices

Food authenticity: assessed claims for the geographical origin and botanical source of honey

Allergens: detected sulphites in food containing interfering ingredients such as garlic

Quantifying protein allergens: carried out research into the quantification of proteins extracted from processed food for immunoassay and mass spectrometry analysis

Foresight and future work:  looked to the future to identify food safety and authenticity related challenges and how best to prepare for them. 

Save the date: Government Chemist conference 2018
The 2018 Government Chemist Conference will take place in London on 13-14 June. Further information about the conference will be disseminated in the autumn, watch your inbox for details.

Get in touch
If you have any questions about the work of the Government Chemit, or about food safety and/or authenticity related issues, email us at: governmentchemist@lgcgroup.com or have a look at our website: www.gov.uk/governmentchemist 

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