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Using blockchain in the food chain has the potential to improve traceability of the supply chain, enabling users to view the relevant data digitally, remove duplication in reporting and paperwork, and use smart contracts to ensure the process is automated where feasible. Then, all of this drives speed of moving data through the system, so recalls could be managed in minutes rather than weeks, and suppliers can be paid immediately. In this article New Food’s Editor, Bethan Grylls discusses with Julie Pierce, Director of Openness, Data & Digital at the FSA how this technology has been used so far and whether it is trustworthy. 

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Roumanian researchers have optimised and validated a real-time, sensitive, and accurate PCR method for the detection and quantification of meat species in selected processed meat products: chicken sausages, beef bologna, and pork bologna. A common detection limit of 8 DNA copies was established for each sample, corresponding to 0.1% w/w for beef and pork and 0.2% w/w for chicken. For the limit of quantification, dilutions of 20 copies of DNA for the bovine and pig species and 50 copies of DNA for the chicken species were performed. Specificity and selectivity tests in six replicates each showed no extraneous meat species, in line with the label information. Repeatability was assessed in six replicates, both quantitatively and qualitatively, by the same analyst, on the same day, and with the same equipment. The reproducibility results obtained by two analysts, on different days, for each sample were very similar. 

1337352593?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the full paper

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This paper reviews the latest research using botanical origin, chemical composition and physical properties to characterise and authenticate honey. Melissopanology (pollen identification), sensorial and physicochemical properties combined with statistical analysis or chemometrics are being used to study the characteristics of honey samples and classify them according to different botanical and geographical origins. 

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This paper reports the performance of a commercial NGS method that has been evaluated as an untargeted tool to identify meat species. The method was tested on pure meat samples, and all species were correctly identified including several exotic species. Closely related meat species were also correctly differentiated. Species were successfully detected and identified in mixtures down to 1% (w/w). The reliability of the method was further confirmed on several proficiency test samples, and promising quantification data were obtained. Finally, 45 minced meat samples sourced from local European and Asian markets were analysed, and 18% of them showed cases of adulteration with undeclared meat species.

3722359646?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the abstract here

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Under Council Regulation 2081/92, extra virgin olive oils (EVOOs) with protected origin status (PDO, PGI) will have specific olive cultivars used in their production laid down to achieve registration of their protected origin. This review details the use of microsatellite markers (SSRs- simple sequence repeats) to verify the olive varieties used in the production of EVOOs, and hence authenticate their protected origin status. This is achieved by comparing the molecular SSR profiles of the oil with online molecular databases. In Italy for example, the SSR profiles are processed into an "identity card" that can be converted to a barcode or QR code on the labels or bottle caps, which can be read at any point along the supply chain, even by consumers and inspectors via a mobile phone, to verify the status and authenticity of the EVOO.

1337657677?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the full paper

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3708557211?profile=RESIZE_710xThe herbal products, sold worldwide as medicines or foods, are perceived as low risk because they are considered natural and thus safe. The quality of these products is ineffectively regulated and controlled. The growing evidence for their lack of authenticity is causing deep concern, but the scale of this phenomenon at the global, continental or national scale remains unknown.

Reserachers analysed data reporting the authenticity, as detected with DNA-based methods, of 5,957 commercial herbal products sold in 37 countries, distributed in all six inhabited continents. The global survey shows that a substantial proportion (27%) of the herbal products commercialized in the global marketplace is adulterated when their content was tested against their labeled, claimed ingredient species. The adulterated herbal products are distributed across all continents and regions. The proportion of adulterated products varies significantly among continents, being highest in Australia (79%), South America (67%), lower in Europe (47%), North America (33%), Africa (27%) and the lowest in Asia (23%).

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China is now Australia's biggest export market for beef. However, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) estimates that every second kilogram of beef sold in China under the banner of being Australian is not actually Australian beef.  Worst still, estimates by an Australian company, Beefledger based on industry insiders, suggest that 90% beef sold is not what it claims to be. It either does not originate from the country it claims to come from, or is not the cut of meat it claims to be, or is not beef at all. To address this significant problem Beefledger are about to launch blockchain technology for its supply chain to China, so that information about cattle location, health, transport and processing is uploaded into the Beefledger blockchain interface at every point in the supply chain. This will ensure Chinese consumers can purchase its beef with confidence.

Although there is no evidence of horsemeat being traded to China, a television report by Australian Broadcasting Company, ABC has shown a distressing account of retired race horses being slaughtered for human consumption, and this trade is far higher than the official data claims.

3705180202?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the two articles - ABC News  and the Daily Mail

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In an effort to boost consumption of tea and consumer confidence, the Indian Tea Board has been considering using blockchain technology to ensure traceability along the supply chain from tea plantation to auction and retail sale. It is hoped that this will prevent adulteration and reduce lower quality tea being sold, which has had an impact on consumer confidence and consumption. Examples of this are the use of added dyes to hide poor quality and increase the 'glossiness' of tea, and the large scale sale of cheaper Nepalese tea sold as the more expensive Indian Darjeeling tea. Blockchain would permit consumers to access information as to the origin of the tea in terms of region or garden, and know that the integrity of the tea has been preserved.

3701988071?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the article here

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One of the largest US Organic Fraud masterminded by a Missouri farmer  Randy Constant, who was given a prison  sentence for 122 months was reported in our 18 August 2019 News blog. Three other Nebraska farmers, who supplied Constant with conventional crops but sold as organic, were given shorter sentences. At the end of October, a fifth farmer from Missouri was given almost a two year sentence for his role in supplying conventional crops to Constant, as well as spraying Constant's crops with pesticides and fertiliser not permitted for organic crops. Randy Constant committed suicide in August, weeks before beginning his 10 year sentence.

3701949300?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the article here

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A US federal bill that would require plant-based and cell-cultured meat products to be labelled as ‘imitation’ meat has been welcomed by beef producers and slammed by plant-based meat advocates, as the row over terminology in the burgeoning space heats up. The bill would mean that any imitation meat product would be deemed to be misbranded unless its label bears the word ‘’imitation’’ as well as a statement that clearly indicates that the product is not derived from or does not contain meat. The term beef would exclude both plant-based and cell-cultured meat from using the term. The bill is aimed at transparency of products to consumers. Read full article.

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A freedom of information request by the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) to the FSA's National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) revealed that in 2018 there were 1,193 food crimes recorded. Examples of food crime include the use of stolen food in the supply chain, unlawful slaughter, diversion of unsafe food, adulteration, substitution or misrepresentation, and document fraud. The most common food crime recorded by the NFCU is the ‘knowing sale of food substances not suitable for human consumption’, which could have consequences for public health. In 2018, there were 310 reported cases in this category, as compared to 73 in the previous year.

3689023291?profile=RESIZE_710x  Read the article here

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Chinese researchers have developed a rapid and simplified work flow analysis using ambient ionisation coupled to a miniature mass spectrometer. The sample treatment and chromatographic separation normally required for mass spectrometry analysis has been by-passed using capillary nano-electrospray ionisation, paper spray ionisation, or syringe spray ionisation depending on the sample.  These are connected to a miniature ion trap mass spectrometer with a continuous atmospheric pressure interface and tandem mass spectrometry capability to undertake the analysis. The system was tested with various food adulterants, and was able to determine as little as 20 - 50 μg/kg of illegal dyes in chilli powder and hotpot seasoning. This developed system has promising potential for fast and in situ screening of food adulteration.

  Read the abstract here3688992492?profile=RESIZE_710x

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Seafood is particularly prone to fraud. In order to try and ensure the supply chain remains integral, IBM and the US company Raw Seafoods have teamed up to introduce blockchain technology, initially to focus on US Atlantic scallop fisheries. Also Raw Seafoods is one of the first companies to introduce the IBM Food Trust Consumer app for smart phones, where consumers will be able to access full information on the scallops they are eating in certain restaurants or buying in retail using a QR code.  

  3686477206?profile=RESIZE_710x    Read the article here

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This paper gives an overview of the last 5 years literature in the application of analytical techniques such as liquid and gas chromatography, isotope ratio and elemental analysis, spectroscopic, DNA based and sensor technologies for the authentication of foods of plant origin, with a special focus on geographical origin traceability and authenticity. The review covers fruits, cereals, pulses, tea, coffee, spices, edible oil, fruit juices, and alcoholic beverages. The effectiveness of these techniques at laboratory and industrial level, and also their advantages and drawbacks are discussed.

 3686453059?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the full paper here

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This paper describes a method based on combining a streamlined DNA extraction method and a SYBR Green quantitative polymerase chain reaction (SyG-qPCR) assay to generate a ready-to-use kit for rapid detection of pork admixtures in processed meat products. The method utilises a rapid and efficient DNA extraction from samples and PCR analysis, which were completed in 10 minutes. The qPCR assay utilised repetitive LINE-1 elements specific to the genome of Sus scrofa domesticus (pig) as a target and incorporated internal controls. The method was validated using 121 processed meat products,  and  amplification was consistently detected only in samples containing pork. 

 1337352593?profile=RESIZE_710x                                    Read the abstract here

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This review by Polish researchers reviews the use of spectroscopic methods in testing the authenticity of some selected herbs and spices. The review covers the spectroscopic techniques - IR, NMR, UV in combination with advanced statistical methods (PCA, CA) to confirm either the origin of the product or  distinguishes the herbs or spices from any adulterating ingredients. 

3686348872?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the abstract here

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William D. Haning, manager of Wilbur-Ellis Co, Texas whose company was found to be selling adulterated ingredients for petfood was sentenced at a court hearing in October. Haning admitted that he and others shipped adulterated pet food ingredients and products to pet food manufacturers in Indiana and Connecticut, as well as six co-packers and co-manufacturers in Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota, over a period of more than six years.The company had already been prosecuted (see News blog 22 Nov 2018) along with another company Diversified Ingredients Inc for this fraud, and ordered to pay back defrauded customers US $4.5 million. As Haning had pleaded guilty, and has already paid this money, the court decided to give him a 5 year probation sentence subject to review.  

3684014431?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the article here

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An introduction to DNA melting curve analysis

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This e-seminar, entitled “An introduction to DNA melting curve analysis”, describes the principles behind, as well as best practice guidelines for the application of the post-PCR analytical method of DNA melting curve analysis. The information presented will provide the viewer with a general introduction to PCR-based DNA melting analysis as a method for food authenticity testing, and provide guidance on how to design, implement and analyse PCR DNA melting assay data. Topics covered will include the principles underpinning DNA melting analysis, designing PCR DNA melting assays, examples of PCR instruments compatible with DNA melting analysis, and guidance on troubleshooting. Those who should consider viewing this e-seminar include individuals currently working within the foods molecular testing area, particularly representatives from UK Official Control Laboratories, industry and members of organisations associated with the UK official control network.

View e-seminar here.

The production of this e-seminar was funded by Defra, FSA, FSS and BEIS under the Joint Knowledge Transfer Framework for Food Standards and Food Safety Analysis.

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In a follow up of a 2018 report, Oceana Canada have released a recent report on the results of a survey of 90 samples taken from 50 different locations in Montreal in 2019. The samples were sent to a commercial laboratory for testing using DNA barcoding for species identification, which found that 31 samples were a different species than was claimed, 21 were mislabelled and three contained species not authorised for sale in Canada.  The 2018 report found a mislabelling rate of 44% in samples from from 5 cities, excluding Montreal. The Montreal results, when combined with previous investigations since 2017, found 47% of the 472 fish samples to date were mislabelled in Montreal, Victoria, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.

1076187540?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the article here and also Oceana Canada's report

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