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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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The assessment of egg freshness is still challenging, due to the lack of robust chemical markers.  Freshness is a crucial parameter for ensuring the production of safe and high‐quality foods. Italian researchers have selected 31 marker compounds based on a metabolomic approach related to the freshness of egg products used as ingredients for compound foods. They were selected from samples of egg products, which were extracted after delivery to the production plant, and after 24 and 48 hours at room temperature. The extracts were analysed by ultrahigh‐pressure liquid chromatography–high‐resolution mass spectrometry (UHPLC‐HRMS), and different chemometric models were created to select those compounds that changed during the storage period, and hence are related to freshness. Furthermore, this UHPLC‐HRMS metabolomic approach allows for the detection of a larger set of metabolites clearly related to possible microbial growth over time, which is a relevant point for also ensuring food safety.

  Read the full research paper

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Black pepper is the most used spice globally, and hence vulnerable to adulteration by cheaper bulking agents. Researchers in N. Ireland have published a feasibility study using NIR and FTIR (Near and Fourier Transform Infra-Red) Spectroscopy with chemometrics to screen ground black pepper for non-spice black pepper materials (husk, pinheads and defatted spent materials), as well as foreign plant material (papaya seeds and chili). Good separation performance between black pepper and adulterated samples could be shown.

  Read the abstract here

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Review of Fish Mislabelling in the USA

 RFF (Resources for the Future) has published a short review of the mislabelling of fish  especially salmon and cod in the USA. The objective of the report is to provide a framework for calculating an estimate of the total amount of mislabelled fish on the market by integrating mislabelling rates with import and production data. The authors conclude there is insufficient data to be able to do this. However, the report is a useful summary of global production and consumption data for salmon and cod.

Read the full report here

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Whilst deliberate adulteration of herbs and spices is understood to be a common phenomenon, this study highlights a potential food safety issue:

Between 2008 and 2017, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene tested more than 3000 samples of consumer products during lead poisoning case investigations and surveys of local stores, and of these, spices were the most frequently tested (almost 40% of the samples).

 

A total of 1496 samples of more than 50 spices from 41 countries were collected during investigations of lead poisoning cases among New York City children and adults and local store surveys.

More than 50% of the spice samples had detectable lead, and more than 30% had lead concentrations greater than 2 parts per million (ppm). Average lead content in the spices was significantly higher for spices purchased abroad than in the United States. The highest concentrations of lead were found in spices purchased in the countries Georgia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, and Morocco.

Read paper.

 

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The New York Attorney General's Office has just published a report of a survey into the labelling of fish species in New York's supermarket chains. Fish (snapper, grouper, cod, wild salmon, halibut, sole, striped bass and white tuna) was sampled from 155 retail  locations from 29 supermarket chains, and sent to Northeastern University for DNA testing. 27% of the samples were found to be mislabelled. A group of 5 of the supermarket chains were responsible for most of the mislabelled samples with more than 50% of their samples mislabelled. 87.5% of the lemon sole, and 67% of the red snapper were mislabelled, and 28% of the salmon was wrongly sold as wild when it was farmed. The report gives best practice for businesses to ensure that the consumer is not purchasing mislabelled fish. 

 Read the article and the full NYAG report

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Having conducted a poll of local authorities (LAs) into the UK monitoring of food standards across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Food Standards Agency found the system is hampered by inadequate resources, and an out-of-date and inflexible approach to regulation. The FSA's Board agreed with the Chair Heather Hancock, that a comprehensive redesign was required, which would provide better assurance, more agility, and help local authorities to obtain evidence that they meet their statutory obligations. The FSA is already reviewing the future of food standards enforcement and how better LA's can prioritise their work.

Read the article here

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Selvarani Elahi the Network's Project Officer gave a presentation about the Network at the 24th meeting of the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection Certification Systems (CCFICS) in Brisbane. The presentation discussed the success of the Network and its ambition to go global in the future. It was well received, and there was interest in the model constructed for the UK and EU, and how this could be extended to other countries or regions. Read the article here

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Italian police raided the premises of two Prosecco producers in Treviso Province and found sacks with 2 tonnes of sugar. The producrs were adding the sugar (chaptilisation) to increase the alcohol content during primary fermentation, which is against the law. Although it is legal to add a small amount of sugar to aid the secondary fermentation (bubble formation). It was estimated that a third of the two companies production had been chaptilised illegally. However, all the Prosecco production was seized because the producers had exceeded their production quotas.

 Read the article here

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Researchers have a developed a multiplex PCR (polymerase chain reaction) assay to identify beef, pork, horse and poultry (chicken, turkey) and determine these species quantitatively in meat products. The qualitative assay uses a mitochondrial cytochrome b gene marker. The quantitative assay uses singlecopy markers from chromosomal genes (cyclic-GMP-phosphodiesterase gene for cattle, beta-actin gene for pig, interleukin-2 gene for chicken), and the normaliser is from the myostatin gene for mammals and poultry. The reliability of both methods was confirmed by analysing of mixed samples prepared with or without heat treatment. The assay was tested with 14 meat products from the Czech retail market with two having undeclared species and another 4 products giving an incorrect quantitative declaration. 

 Read the abstratct here

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IAEA have put a call for proposals on its website on a new 5 year project - ‘Implementation of Nuclear Techniques for Authentication of Foods with High-Value Labelling Claims’ (D52042). Examples of high value foods include vanilla from Madagascar, coffee from Colombia, Taliouine saffron from Morocco, and Darjeeling tea from India. Proposals need to be submitted by the end of February, and the kick-off Coordination Meeting is scheduled for 13-17 May 2019 at the United Nations Office in Vienna. If you would like further information not contained in the link above, please contact Dr Simon Kelly (S.Kelly@iaea.org).

 

 

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Fifty-five samples of vintage Scotch whisky, selected at random from auctions, private collections and retailers, were sent by the whisky broker - Rare Whisky 101 to the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC) in East Kilbride for carbon dating testing of the alcohol, cork and labels. Twenty-one out of 55 bottles of rare Scotch were deemed to be outright fakes or whiskies not distilled in the year declared. The value of these 21 samples, if genuine vintage whisky, could be worth around £635,000. Rare Whisky 101 have stated that there is a serious issue, and estimated that about £41m worth of rare whisky, which is currently circulating in the secondary market - and present in existing collections - is fake. 

 Read the BBC News article and also watch the short video

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Conventional nucleic acid amplification methods are reliable, but the requirement of complex equipment, skilled technicians and long operation time limit their on-site use. Here, a simple denaturation bubble-mediated strand exchange amplification method (SEA) requiring only a pair of primers and one polymerase was first reported for identifying adulteration of pork source by targeting the species-specific mitochondrial DNA sequence. The SEA method could detect 1% pork total DNA by both colorimetric and fluorescence determination. The whole detection process could be finished within 1 hour by coupling with fast tissue DNA extraction method, only requiring a simple heating block, and hence making it suitable for on-site meat species identification. 

Read the abstract here

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As the European Union has committed to only accept authenticated “sustainably sourced” palm oils, it is important to ensure that such imported oils are really from the declared source, preferably via proven analytical methods. This full review looks at the legal requirements for the traceability and authentication of palm oil, and assesses some new and emerging chemically-based technologies that should contribute to improving the monitoring of palm oil and other vegetable oil supply chains in Europe and elsewhere. 

  Read the full open access article

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Vietnam is currently flooded with China-grown agricultural products, such as carrots, potatoes and mandarins, misdescribed as farm produce originating in two Vietnamese Provinces - Da Lat City, Tien Giang Province and Thailand. Vietnam has no regulations on origin traceability and identification of home grown produce. 

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has pointed out three major reasons for the alleged fraud, with the first being that Vietnam’s regulations fail to instruct traders to stick labels on packages of farm produce, which are sold directly to customers. The second loophole is related to origin traceability, with the Ministry noting that the regulation on this has yet to be applied effectively and widely to farm produce. In addition, the Government’s Decree 15/2018 guiding the application of some articles of the law on food safety and hygiene includes a regulation only tracing origins of unsafe products and those requested by agencies, if necessary. The third loophole determined by the Ministry relates to regulations on the identification of Vietnamese products. In fact, Vietnam has yet to issue criteria for how a product is recognised as being Vietnamese. Although the country has regulations on identifying "Made-in-Vietnam" products, these regulations are applied only to exports and not to items sold in the domestic market. The Ministry has proposed two solutions: a) minimising unregulated trade and fostering formal trade, and b) encouraging manufacturers to produce high-quality and safe products with their origin printed on packages.

 Read the article here

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The European Consumer Organisation Foodwatch has issued a 50+ page report giving an in-depth analysis of the food law of the European Union – and reveals fundamental weaknesses. It criticises traceability requirements as not being strong enough or implemented along the whole food chain. It demands that EU food law clearly stipulate that authorities must inform the public quickly and comprehensively in the event of infringements. This must include the names of manufacturers and products, both in cases where there is a risk to health and in cases of fraud. Foodwatch also demands that consumer associations be given the right to sue authorities that fail to fulfil their obligations under EU law. It also states that the European Commission's proposal for a reform of European food law is completely inadequate.

 Read Foodwatch's Press Release and the full report.

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In this review by Spanish researchers, an updated, comprehensive and balanced overview of the recent studies (2015-2018) that have applied omics-based technologies for the authentication of food is given. The omics-based molecular tools discussed in the review include genomics, proteomics and metabolomics-based methods.

Read the abstract

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The survey assessed how LAs plan and prioritise their food standards work, the resources and capacity they have and how they measure the success of their programmes. The review can be found here

Key findings from the survey

  • Levels of food standards resource in England are generally lower than in Wales and Northern Ireland, with 22% of English LAs having less than 1 Full-Time Equivalent (‘FTE’) person dedicated to food standards work.  
  • 15% of food businesses are unrated for food standards risk, however the figures for some LAs are higher
  • LAs had difficulty in recruiting qualified officers and 57% of LAs were not in a position to support a student through the qualification process 

Alternative approaches to food standards delivery are being adopted effectively by many LAs. FSA intend to explore and build on areas of good practice as part of their reform programme. 

Review to be discussed at the next FSA Board meeting

The review of food standards has been published as part of the FSA Board papers. 

The next Board meeting will be held at Church House in London on Wednesday 5 December 2018 at 8.30am. You can attend in person or watch it live online.

A full agenda and published papers can be viewed in the board meeting section of the FSA website

For details on how to register to attend the Board meeting, please see the Board section of the FSA website.

 

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Two US companies will pay $7 million after admitting that they omitted poultry meal from pet foods or replaced it with feather and bone meals. 

Wilbur-Ellis Co., which makes ingredients used in the pet food industry, will pay about $4.5 million in restitution and $1 million in criminal forfeitures, according to an 11 October announcement from the Department of Justice. The company pleaded guilty in April to introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. Texan company Wilbur-Ellis replaced chicken and turkey meal with cheaper substitutes, such as feather meal and feed-grade chicken bone by-product meal. They also omitted ingredients, including the turkey meal in a product labelled as turkey meal.

Diversified Ingredients Inc., a commodities broker in pet food industries, will pay $1.5 million in restitution and $75,000 in criminal forfeiture. That company's leaders pleaded guilty in July to introducing adulterated and misbranded foods. Mr Doyle, an attorney for Diversified Ingredients, said his clients learned about the fraud from the Wilbur-Ellis plant during a lawsuit filed in 2014, when Nestle Purina PetCare Co. had accused Blue Buffalo Co. Ltd. of making false claims about Blue Buffalo's pet food ingredients. He said Diversified Ingredients had no intent to defraud customers, and had relied on their customers to perform quality assurance testing, and Diversified Ingredients since has introduced more quality assurance activities including audits of suppliers.

 Read the article here

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission(AACC) has concluded its investigation into the honey company Capilano, and declared that the testing method used which claimed that the company's honey had been adulterated is not yet reliable to make such a claim. Tests carried out in Germany by Quality Services International found that half the samples collected from supermarkets had been adulterated. The tests claimed that Capilano's Allowrie honey, labelled as "pure" and "100% honey" were adulterated with sugar syrup. Capilano denied there are such issues with its honey and criticised the methodology behind the tests. This criticism has now been upheld by the ACCC, which said that the ACCC is advised that NMR testing is not yet reliable enough to determine whether honey is adulterated, and therefore should not be used as a basis to support legal action. This is consistent with the approach of regulators in the UK, US and the EU. Also, the ACCC's investigation found that Capilano had taken steps to provide assurance, and did not uncover any other evidence that supported the allegation Capilano's Allowrie honey was adulterated with sugar syrup.

 Read the article here, and the original claim of adulterated honey 

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