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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.

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5327452655?profile=RESIZE_400xAfter several months of consultation the European Commission has adopted and published on 20 May its ambitious "Farm to Fork Strategy" aiming to make food systems fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly. It is made up of 27 actions that will aim to make the European food system a global standard for sustainability. In terms of concrete targets, the Commission proposed an ambitious 50% cut for the use and risk of pesticides, as well as a 50% reduction of highly hazardous pesticides, a 20% cut in fertiliser use and a 50% reduction of antibiotic use in farming and aquaculture, all by 2030 and compared to the EU’s current level. It is also planned to address the issue of food loss and waste, step up the fight against food fraud and strengthen EU animal welfare rules, as well as provide clear information and empower consumers to make healthy and sustainable choices thanks to an EU-wide mandatory food labelling.

Read the article or the full EU Food to Farm Strategy and associated documents

 

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5326712490?profile=RESIZE_180x180Foods with names, which are linked directly or indirectly to a designated geographic origin are protected in law by a European based system of protected denomination of origin (PDO) and protected geographic indication (PGI). This study examines whether past protection of GIs through 11 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) has increased trade in them. The answer matters for trade policy, since the protection of at least some GIs has been a red line in EU FTA negotiations. The findings of this study show that that legal protection of GIs in FTAs does not significantly increase trade in them. Hence, the suggested policy implication is that the EU should focus on external promotion of its GIs rather than asking trading partners for stronger legal protection. 

5326802477?profile=RESIZE_180x180Read the full paper 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.

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5195179470?profile=RESIZE_400xCOVID-19 is disrupting food systems globally and governments must stabilise food supply chains and thoughtfully expand social safety nets now to avert social unrest. Lessons learned from the 2008–2012 food price crises globally, which caused riots in 50 countries, point to seven actionable points to consider.

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5164616286?profile=RESIZE_400xFish species substitution and/or mislabelling is known to be a serious global issue. Spanish researchers used DNA barcoding to identify fish species in 313 samples collected in 204 mass catering outlets from 15 Spanish Autonomous Communities. The results showed that 50% of the food catering establishments sold mislabelled seafood. The fish species found to be most substituted were dusky grouper (shown left and known as Mero in Spanish) and tope shark, which were substituted by similar species of fish from Asian, South American and South African regions.

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5161152860?profile=RESIZE_400xThis FAO publication provides a comprehensive introduction to blockchain, covers smart contracts, and explores how they relate to blockchain with an example of their use in seafood value chains. It examines major development and operational considerations for blockchain applications. It also analyses the seafood supply chain with considerations on flag, coastal, port, processing and market countries. The study identifies general control elements (critical tracking events and corresponding key data elements) that form the basis for traceability monitoring and acquisition, and summarises th suitability of blockchain application. It also investigates considerations for legality, transparency, species fraud and food safety. 

Read either the news article or the full FAO Study.

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5159000452?profile=RESIZE_400xThe European Commission published its 2019 Annual Report of the Food Fraud Network this month. It gives details of the number of requests for assistance and cooperation to investigate food fraud. The highest number of requests came from Germany (76), followed by the Commission (70), and top three groups of food investigated were fats and oils, fish and fish products, and meat and meat products (not including poultry). The report details EU coordinated actions taken in 2019 on illicit practices concerning animal-by-products, tuna and European eels. The EU Food Fraud Network is also engaged in Operation OPSON – a joint Europol/Interpol initiative targeting trafficking in fake and substandard food and beverages. In 2019, 16 Member States and 18 non-EU countries around the world investigated fraudulent organic food, 2,4 Dinitrophenol (DNP) and coffee (Arabica substituted by Robusta coffee) 

Read the full report here

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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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Recent reports suggest the potential for increased food fraud in global food supply chains due to the impact of Covid-19.

Thus, it is vital that we continue the good practice embedded in businesses to protect the safety and security of food supply chains.

Following an extraordinary meeting of our Advisory Board on 6 May, we have gathered together information provided on the Food Authenticity Network, to help businesses secure food supply chains by mitigating food fraud, onto one page: www.foodauthenticity.uk/covid-19

 

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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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4981653700?profile=RESIZE_400xLivestock rustling is on the rise in the UK. According to the National Farmers Mutual Union Insurance company, which reported that in 2019 farm animals worth £3 million were stolen. An earlier Guardian article describes some of the disturbing incidents of livestock theft and illegal slaughter in 2014. It appears that the situation is worse even in the Covid-19 lockdown.

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The guidance for food business operators and their employees is aimed to assist all food businesses in following government guidance on infection prevention and control measures against COVID-19.

Scottish Government requirements to close restaurants, cafes and public houses to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has led many of these businesses to offer new take-away or delivery services to their customers. The closure of many catering businesses has also resulted in increased demand for existing take-away businesses.  In recognition of the challenges faced by small businesses in the food take-away sector we have produced a practical guide to help them communicate consistently to their customers, including model notices that can be used to maintain social distancing requirements at their premises.

The guidance is being continually reviewed and will be updated to reflect developments so please refer to the FSS website for their latest advice.

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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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Food adulteration is a growing concern worldwide. The collation and analysis of food adulteration cases is of immense significance for food safety regulation and research.

Research led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences collected 961 cases of food adulteration between 1998 and 2019 from the literature reports and announcements released by the Chinese government. Critical molecules were manually annotated in food adulteration substances as determined by food chemists, to build the first food adulteration database in China (http://www.rxnfinder.org/FADB-China/). This database is also the first molecular-level food adulteration database worldwide.

Additionally, the researchers propose an in silico method for predicting potentially illegal food additives on the basis of molecular fingerprints and similarity algorithms. Using this algorithm, we predict 1,919 chemicals that may be illegally added to food; these predictions can effectively assist in the discovery and prevention of emerging food adulteration.

The publication of this research has been published in Food Chemistry, doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2020.127010   

The FADB-CHINA database has been added to the 'Services' page of the Food Fraud Mitigation section.

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Research undertaken by Crowe UKKYND and University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Counter Fraud Studies found that the vast majority of the top 200 AIM businesses have significant unaddressed cyber risks. Unfortunately, the risks identified are not just limited to the top 200 AIM businesses and are also likely to exist in similar companies. 

The cyber landscape is becoming increasingly complex, particularly now we're seeing increased strain from fraud and cybercrime pressures related to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Fraud and cybercrime is expected to surge over 60% in the coming months. Keeping pace with the evolution of cyber threats is becoming ever more challenging and important. This was evidenced in the report's key findings.

  • 91.5% exposed to email spoofing
  • 47.5% have at least one external internet service exposed, placing them at higher risk of ransomware attack
  • 85% using services with well-known vulnerability to cyber attack
  • 41.5% using vulnerable out of date software
  • 31.5% operating with at least one expired, revoked, or distrusted security certificate
  • 64% companies with at least on domain registered to personal email address.

Download the Fraud and cybercrime vulnerabilities on AIM report

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4922013891?profile=RESIZE_400xThe restrictions which many countries have brought into place to manage the spread of Covid-19 have in turn severely impacted the Food industry Buying patterns have changed resulting in panic buying testing the ability of some food chains to respond whilst on the other hand closures of food service outlets and non-food retail has resulted in loss of markets for others.

Much of the focus in factories has rightly been on changing the way that we work to safeguard the health of our workers by providing a safe working environment introducing social distancing. The changes which we have all had to make also introduce new challenges to the way that we manage food safety with potential disruption to supply chains, staff absenteeism and an influx of new temporary workers to the food industry.

This guidance document has been produced to complement the BRCGS Food Safety Standard to help managers fine tune their food safety management systems to cope with the new position which the food industry now faces.

BRCGS Guidance Document – Managing Food Safety During Covid-19.

 

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COVID-19 and Food Fraud Risk

4842570074?profile=RESIZE_400xIn this article, Karen Everstine discusses the potential effects of the Covid-19 epidemic on food supply chain and the risk of increased food fraud. The epidemic has resulted in a weakening of regulatory oversight and food safety/authenticity auditing, and has already had an efect on some of the global supply chains.  

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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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