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Characterisation of the lipid component of seafood products based on chromatography-mass spectrometry techniques has been reported as a promising approach to differentiate farmed from wild-type products. In this study, Italian researchers used a fast method based on Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART) coupled to High Resolution Mass Spectrometry (HRMS) based on a single stage Orbitrap mass analyser, integrated by Principal Component Analysis (PCA), to discriminate wild-type from farmed salmon of Salmo salar species. Obtaining the 30 most intense signals (all referred to fatty acids, FA) detected in negative ion DART-HRMS spectra of the lipid extracts of salmon fillets [26 wild-type from Canada, 74 farmed from Canada (25), Norway (25) and Chile (24)] were considered as the variables for PCA. In agreement with other studies, three saturated (14:0, 16:0 and 18:0) FA, along with unsaturated ones having 20 or 22 carbon atoms, were found as the main discriminating variables for wild-type salmons, whereas FA with compositions 18:1, 18:2, 18:3 and several oxidised forms arising from them were found to have a significantly higher incidence in farmed salmon. The methodology was tested against 6 samples of farmed Norwegian salmon, which were all correctly classified.

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As part of the EU Project Authent-Net, the Norwegian Food Research Agency (Nofima)  and Belgium's Centre Wallon de Recherches Agronomique (CRA-W) have developed a database to help prevent another major food fraud incident. The database FARNHub (Food Authenticity Research Network Hub) has a web searcher  for any news on food authenticity or fraud from around the world. The database contains information on research publications, regulations, funders of food authenticity research, and on-line databases of incidents. Information on reasearch projects and methods will be available through links to the FoodIntegrity  Knowledge Base (KB) when it is transferred to JRC Geel.

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 In this study, more than 400 pesticides were screened in a representative set of 42 genuine and 34 adulterated dried oregano samples collected from various locations across Europe. The results obtained by advanced mass spectrometry-based methods, showed, that some pesticide residues could be detected in virtually all tested samples, nevertheless, on average, higher contamination was found in the adulterated oregano samples. Increased incidence of insecticides such as cyfluthrin, permethrin and cyhalothrin was typical for these samples, moreover, pyriproxyfen was detected exclusively in adulterated samples. As pyriproxyfen was absent in genuine oregano, it could be used as a screen for adulterated oregano. 

    Read the abstract here

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Honey is the third most adulterated food globally. This study by Australian researchers examined 100 honey samples from Australia (mainland and Tasmania) along with 18 other countries covering Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Oceania. Carbon isotopic analyses of honey and protein showed that 27% of commercial honey samples tested were of questionable authenticity. The remaining 69 authentic samples were subject to trace element analysis for geographic determination, and were analysed chemometrically. The trace elements Sr, P, Mn and K were the most useful ones to differentiate honey according to its geographic origin. The findings show the common and prevalent issues of honey authenticity and the mislabelling of its geographic origin can be identified using a combination of stable carbon isotopes and trace element concentrations.

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Sourdough or sourfaux?

According to an investigation by Which? magazine, 15 out of 19 so-called sourdough loaves, sold in supermarkets, that they examined were not made in the traditional way and contain extra ingredients or additives.

Traditional sourdough is considered to be one of the oldest forms of bread and the technique can be traced back to ancient Egypt.

 

But Which? magazine says it looked at 19 sourdough loaves sold in supermarkets and found only four were made in the traditional way with the three basic ingredients.

The others contained extra ingredients, such as yeast, ascorbic acid and yoghurt and vinegar.

While these are not necessarily bad for you or unhealthy, Chris Young from the Real Bread Campaign says customers are being misled.

"If you are told you are buying something, you should get what you pay for. Particularly when some of the supermarkets are charging a premium for that product," he said.

The Real Bread Campaign group says it wants to see a legal definition of the terms "sourdough" or "artisan bread", so stores cannot "misinterpret" them.

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Australia's biggest listed honey company and some of the country's largest supermarket chains face accusations of unwittingly selling "fake" honey.

Testing at a leading international scientific lab that specialises in honey fraud detection has found that almost half the honey samples selected from supermarket shelves were "adulterated", meaning it has been mixed with something other than nectar from bees.

The adulterated samples were all products that blend local and imported honey.

ASX-listed Capilano's Allowrie-branded Mixed Blossom Honey, which sources honey from Australia and overseas, and markets itself as 100 per cent honey, showed up as "adulterated" in the majority of samples tested.

The results are set to ignite a storm over how honey purity is tested that will involve the Federal Government as well as local and international regulators.

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A new study from Oceana, an ocean conservation and advocacy group, found that a lot of fish at the store is mislabeled. Most of the fish mislabeled was snapper. The report found that much of it was swapped out with Tilapia and other types of fish.

 

Experts say if you want to make sure you're really getting snapper fish, check the skin. It should be bright pink or almost red in color. Without the skin, you may not be able to tell what you're getting.

The FDA says another product that is misleading in grocery stores is honey, saying sometimes what’s being sold isn’t pure honey.

Some red flags on the label include the words "sugar-free" and "blended honey." The fake stuff tends to have more processed sugar and doesn't have the same health benefits.

And if you're treating yourself to a nice steak dinner, beware of Kobe beef. Real Kobe beef is extremely rare outside of Japan and cannot be found in grocery stores. Only a few restaurants in the country have the real thing.

The Kobe Distribution Association website has a list of places where they've sent their Kobe beef.

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India is the largest producer of milk globally, producing 155 million tonnes/year worth nearly US$ 70billion. However, it has been reported that  roughly 68% of all milk and milk products have been found to be in violation of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India's (FSSAI) standards – despite the regulator's recent proposal of a penalty of around US$14,000, or a maximum of lifetime imprisonment for intentionally adding adulterants to food products. Adulterants found to be added in milk include white paint, refined oil, caustic soda, formalin, glucose, urea, salt, liquid detergent, boric acid, sodium bicarbonate, and hydrogen peroxide. Many of these pose a health risk to Indian consumers. The FSSAI has even produced a simple kit for consumers to test milk themselves for adulteration. The main problem being that only 66% of milk is handled in the main supply market and the rest is dealt with privately. 

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A Novel Approach for Scotch Whisky Authentication

Scotch whisky, a popular high value spirit drink, is vulnerable to fraud. In this study, a non-targeted screening (metabolomics fingerprinting) of volatile and semi-volatile substances was used. After pre-concentration, gas chromatography (GC) coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (Q-TOF mass analyser) was employed. Unsupervised principle component analysis (PCA) and supervised partial least squares discriminant analysis (PLS–DA) were used for evaluation of data obtained by analysis of a unique set of 171 authentic whisky samples. A very good separation of malt whiskies according to the type of cask in which they were matured (bourbon versus bourbon and wine) was achieved, and significant ´markers´ for bourbon and wine cask maturation, such as N-(3-methylbutyl) acetamide and 5-oxooxolane-2-carboxylic acid, were identified. This unique sample set was used to construct a statistical model for distinguishing malt and blended whiskies. In the final phase, 20 fake samples were analysed, and the data processed in the same way. Some differences could be observed in the (semi)volatile profiles of authentic and fake samples. Employing the statistical model developed by PLS-DA for this purpose, marker compounds that positively distinguish fake samples were identified.

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Robusta coffee is usually cheaper than arabica coffee. Mixtures of the two can be produced and labelled correctly for consumer taste. However, 100% arabica coffees may be mixed with robusta coffee to reduce costs. Brazilian researchers have developed primers which specifically amplify arabica coffee but not robusta in blends of roasted and ground coffee. The percentages of arabica coffee  in blends can be determined using real-time PCR.

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The Food Authenticity Network was discussed at the Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in July during the side events “food integrity and food authenticity: a way forward”: 

Side event 1 - IGO Panel Discussion Food Integrity and Food Authenticity: A Way Forward

The Food Authenticity Network was quoted a number of times at both side events by the panellists as being a leading example of an integrity network.

A discussion paper is being developed through the Food Import and Export Inspection (CCFICS) and Certification Systems (CCFICS) to define and distinguish the various terms related to the subject e.g. food integrity, food fraud, economically motivated adulteration (EMA).

Side event 2 – NGO Panel Discussion Food Integrity and Food Authenticity: A Way Forward

The UK provided an overview of the Food Authenticity Network and distributed material on the Network to delegations.

Countries attending the side events indicated both their progress and challenges related to the subject, highlighting the diversity of Codex Members in terms of their capacity to identify and address fraudulent activities. They also underlined the very practical daily challenges they face due to lack of regulation, capacity and knowledge on this issue.

In summarising, panellists concurred that Codex was an ideal arena in which to further explore the issue and to promote harmonization, especially regarding definitions.

Read full report.

Watch webcast.

 

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The BBC made a Freedom of Information (FoI) to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for the results of meat product testing by local authorities in 2017. This revealed that out of 665 results from 487 businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland collected by the FSA, 145 were partly or wholly made up of unspecified meat. Of these 145 samples,73 came from retailers - including three supermarkets, and a further 50 came from restaurants, while 22 originated from manufacturing or food processing plants. The most commonly mislabelled product was mince, followed by sausages, kebabs and restaurant curries, and lamb products were the most commonly found to contain traces of other animals DNA.  

The FSA has responded by stressing that the results are not representative of the food industry. Local authorities taking the samples, were targeting the high risk businesses. 

Read the BBC report and the FSA's response

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In 2017 a cross government framework was agreed for the provision of Knowledge Transfer (KT) of scientific method development to support food standards and food safety analysis in Public Analyst (PA) and industry laboratories.

The KT will be delivered through a three year project funded in partnership between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the Government Chemist (GC) programme (funded by BEIS). The framework will provide a more sustainable and cost-effective programme of KT on analytical tools to support food law enforcement for ensuring food authenticity, safety, hygiene and quality.

The aim is to deliver a strategic three year programme of scientific KT activities to ensure effective analytical laboratory capability in the UK for food standards and food safety analysis. The programme will upskill laboratories on new and emerging food safety and standards detection methodologies, disseminating best practice in their application and providing the tools and know-how to respond to current and emerging analytical needs.

The activities to be undertaken are agreed by the partners on an annual basis by means of a prioritisation exercise. The activities delivered in year 1 (FY17) were:

  • A one-day workshop “An analytical roadmap for detecting allergens in spices” attended by 19 participants from Public Analyst laboratories, industry and the project partners.
  • Two e-seminars on digital polymerase chain reaction (dPCR) and designing quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) assays.

The e-seminars and the materials from the allergens workshop are now available in the training section of the Food Authenticity Network website: www.foodauthenticity.uk/training-top.

Activities for delivery in year 2 (FY18) are currently being agreed.

If you have ideas for training that are not currently addressed by other avenues such as the National Reference Laboratories, commercial training etc.. then we'd love to hear from you; please email Secretary@FoodAuthenticity.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Two Australian media companies instructed a law firm to investigate the Australian honey industry. Twenty eight samples were collected from the Australian retail market and sent to two European laboratories for analysis by both NMR and carbon isotope analysis. The results indicated that 12 out of the 28 samples were not pure honey.

The companies involved with the non-compliant samples have challenged the results indicating that the honey samples were blends of Australian honey with other countries' honey (mainly China), which the tests especially NMR might not recognise as pure honey. However, the Australian official test is based on carbon isotopic measurement, which would only detect adulteration with C4 sugars such as cane sugar or sugars derived from maize starch. NMR is able to detect adulteration from C3 sugars such as beet sugar or sugars derived from rice starch. The European laboratory QSI undertaking the  analyses has indicated that adulteration is becoming more sophisticated where a tailored blend of C3 sugars are being added honey to even avoid detection by NMR.

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Italian researchers have used carbon isotope ratio (δ13C) of caffeine in green and in the corresponding roasted coffee, evaluated with a omprehensive approach using as a second parameter, the δ13C value of the whole volatile fraction of the roasted coffee samples. The method is based on evaluating the effect of roasting on caffeine by using a gas chromatograph connected directly to the carbon isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC-C-IRMS). The results are then evaluated based on a novel comprehensive isotopic data evaluation (CIDE) model demonstrating that regardless the effect of roasting and the different geographic origin, the coffee bean samples analysed can be discriminated based on their botanical origin and in particular whether they are arabica or robusta coffee.

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Located in China's Heilongjiang province, Wuchang is known for its high quality Wuchang rice. However, over the past few years, there have been reports that packages delivered from the region were sometimes mixed with low grade rice. Ant Financial, an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba, has announced a partnership with the municipal government of Wuchang to deploy a consortium blockchain for tracking the entire production process of locally grown rice in the province in an attempt to prevent counterfeit rice products entering the market. One of the  benefits of the introduced blockchain technology is that for the first time Wuchang rice has changed its long-distance distribution method for the whole country, shortening the original delivery time of 3-7 days to less than 2 days. 

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Oceana Canada has  conducted a study in 2017 and 2018  and collected 382 samples of snapper, sea bass, sole and other fish that other studies indicate are often substituted. The samples came from 177 retailers and restaurants in five Canadian cities, and were sent to the University of Guelph for DNA barcoding. The study found that 44% of the samples were mislabelled. In particular it found cheaper haddock and pollock substituted for cod; farmed salmon served up as wild salmon; and escolar (a fish banned in many countries because of its health risks) masquerading as butterfish or white tuna. In addition, every single sample of so-called “red snapper” tested was actually another species.

Read Oceana's Report here

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There is a increasing use of High Resolution Mass Spectrometry non-targeted approaches to examine the authenticity of food. The diversity in experimental design/data handling in scientific literature makes evaluation of method performance challenging. Developing an appropriate model validation is therefore a crucial step to assess reliability for quantitative or confirmatory purposes. This review assesses the state of the art and proposes a harmonised workflow for all such applications. Additionally, global considerations on the applicability of these methods for legal challenges are provided.

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Indian researchers have concluded that in order to be able to authenticate saffron and check its purity, no single test is appropriate. This study has  proposed cross validation using 3 tests based on microscopy, DNA barcoding and ISO3632 standards. The combined use of these three tests is novel and more effective compare to any single test. 36 commercial saffron samples were tesed using the multiple test approach and found that over 45% of samples tested were questionable, and first grade saffron is rare on the Indian market.

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Researchers at the Institute for Global Food Security and Young's Seafood have published comprehensive research on the subject of the seafood supply chain and the points where fraud can occur. The research reveals opportunities for fruad by mapping the supply chains of finfish, shellfish and crustaceans in the UK, and looks at many factors, including species substitution and adulteration, chain of custody abuse, modern day slavery and catch method fraud, among others.

The entire paper is available on open access here.

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