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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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The FDA has issued its second installment of how companies should take measures and mitigation strategies to protect themselves against intentional adulteration (IA rule), which is a requirement of the recent Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The draft document is out for consultation, which closes on 5 July 2019. The IA rule applies to the owner, operator, or agent in charge of a domestic or foreign food facility that manufactures/processes, packs, or holds food for consumption in the USA. There are some exceptions including farms, except farms producing milk. Companies are required to develop/implement a food defence plan identifying vulnerabilities, and how to deal with them, and ensure they are working. The FSMA covers attacks intended to cause wide scale public health harm to humans including acts of terrorism focused on the food supply, and these are ranked as the highest risk. There is also intentional adulteration for economic gain with or without any safety implications; acts of disgruntled employees, consumers, or competitors. The IA rule is focused on addressing only acts causing wide scale public health harm, and not acts of disgruntled employees, consumers, or competitors, or acts of economic gain without public health implications. 

Read the article and the FDA draft guidance

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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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Black pepper is one of the most valued spices in the world, and hence is susceptible to adulteration. A common adulterant is black papaya seeds. Researchers in Peru and Brazil have investigated the potential of near infrared hyperspectral imaging (NIR-HSI) combined with multivariate analysis to identify black pepper adulterated with papaya seeds. SIMCA (soft independent modelling of class analogy) allowed classification with 100% sensitivity between berry black pepper and berry papaya seeds. A PLS (partial least squares) reduced model based on 7 wavelengths presented higher predictive capability, and the maps from this model successfully showed the distribution of ground papaya seeds in ground black pepper.

 Read the abstract here

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Bad weather, frost and disease have crippled the Italian olive oil industry in recent months, causing a 57% drop in production over 2018 and costing the sector almost Euros1 billion. This drop means that Italian farmers only have enough olive oil for four months of the year, and may be forced to import olive oil. Freak rains and early cold temperatures affected output, along with the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa that infected trees throughout the southern region of Puglia, where ancient olive groves produce 65 percent of the national output.

In contrast, the Spanish olive crop has had a good year, and as reported in the Olive Oil Times, ‘Spanish olive oil production is expected to reach 1.76 million tons in the 2018/19 season, up from 1.39 million tons the preceding season’. Hence overall EU production of olive oil is set to remain at a similar level to last year, with Spain making up the Italian olive deficit. Outside the EU, countries such asTurkey and Tunisia are expected to have a fall in the production of olive oil, but with Morocco increasing its production by around 50 percent.

 Read the article here

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Researchers have reported the development of a sensitive and reliable method of pork adulteration in beef and chicken products based on PCR–Enzyme Linked Oligonucleotide Assay (ELONA). The asssay uses species-specific tailed primers for duplex amplification, and simple dilution of the PCR reactions for direct colorimetric detection via hybridisation, eliminating the need for any other post-amplification steps. It was validated using DNA add-mixtures as well as DNA extracted from raw meat mixtures, and 0.5–1% w/w pork could be easily detected when mixed with beef or chicken. 

 Read the abstract here

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Italy Uncovers Fake Balsamic Vinegar Fraud

Balsamic vinegar of Modena is a protected PGI name and must be made from certain grape varieties grown in the Italian provinces of Modena and Reggio Emelia. Italian investigators carrying out "Operation Global Wine" have uncovered a fraudulent use of table grapes, which are then processed and passed of as authentic balsamic vinegar. They have seized Euros15million worth of grape must and wine products, as well as numerous documents showing how the provenance and authenticity of the vinegar was falsified.

 Read the article here

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Buffalo milk commands a premium price compared to cows’ milk, and is used to make mozzarella cheese. Products labelled as “buffalo mozzarella” must be made solely with buffalo milk, and not with milk from any other species. Reseachers at the Quadram Institute, Norwich have developed  a new multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) mass spectrometry (MS) assay measuring the mass of ‘marker’ peptides which, due to the amino acid sequence differences, are characteristic of either buffalo or cow in αs1-casein. The markers can also be used to give relative quantitation for mixtures of bovine and buffalo milk or cheese, based upon ratios of transition peak areas.

The method was used to conduct a pilot survey of retail mozzarella products. Eight samples of supermarket cheeses specifically labelled as buffalo were all found to be 100% buffalo. Five other samples, simply labelled mozzarella, were all 100% cow. These samples showed no signs of adulteration. However, when 17 other products such as pizzas were examined, two thirds of these samples from supermarket pizzas, restaurant pizzas and other restaurant dishes that claimed to be buffalo mozzarella contained at least some cows’ milk. In some cases, the mozzarella was 100% derived from cow.

 Read the Press Release and the full journal paper.

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IFST has re-written its “Food authenticity testing” Information Statement and split it into two parts:

Food authenticity testing part 1: The role of analysis, which now covers the role of analytical testing within the context of an overall supply chain assurance strategy.

Analytical testing is a valuable tool in the armoury to assure food authenticity but cannot be used to identify every type of food fraud.  It is only one part of an overall strategy to mitigate fraud risk.

Many modern tests are based upon comparing a pattern of measured values in the test sample with patterns from a database of authentic samples. Interpretation is highly dependent on the robustness of the database, and whether it includes all possible authentic variables and sample types. This information may not be released by the laboratory.  Interpretation of results is rarely clear-cut, and analytical results are often used to inform and target further investigation (such as unannounced audits or mass-balance checks) rather than for making a compliance decision.

This paper describes where testing can and cannot be used, and highlights generic issues relating to interpreting food authenticity testing results.

Food authenticity testing part 2: Analytical techniques, which gives describes specific analytical techniques, their applications, strengths and weaknesses.

This paper describes the principles, different configurations, applications, strengths and limitations of some of the more common analytical techniques used in food authenticity testing:
• Mass spectrometry
• Stable isotope mass spectrometry
• DNA analysis
• Nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry
• Spectroscopy.

Generic strengths and limitations of food authenticity test methods, particularly those relating to methods comparing against reference databases of authentic samples, are discussed in “Food authenticity testing: The role of analysis”. It also describes the difference between targeted and untargeted analysis.

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Much needed guidelines for building and curating food authenticity databases has been published by the FoodIntegrity EU Project.

Food fraud is a global issue often detected through the use of analytical testing. Analysis of suspect foodstuffs and comparison of their results to those contained within a food authenticity database is a typical approach. This scientific opinion was commissioned as part of the FoodIntegrity EU project to provide guidance for the creation of these food authenticity databases.

This opinion paper provides what the authors believe are the most important considerations which must be addressed, when creating a food authenticity database. Specifically, the areas of database scope, analytical methodology, sampling, collection and storage of data, validation and curation are discussed.

Full paper.

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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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The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) has called for stronger deterrents for food fraud after news of an egg trader in the Netherlands was convicted and fined €30,000 for fraudulently selling eggs contaminated fipronil, and battery eggs as free range. These eggs were stamped with fake registration numbers, making it impossible to track their origins. Also, inspectors from the Dutch Food Safety Board (NVWA) found 280,000 unstamped eggs at the trader’s warehouse in June 2018, as well as ‘free range’ eggs from a farm which said it had never done business with the trader. The BEIC has called for stronger deterrents to be in place in the UK to discourage food fraud, and recommended UK food businesses to look for the "Lion" stamp as the scheme ensures the highest standards of food safety and has a number of stringent processes in place to ensure full traceability.

 Read the statement by BEIC and news of the prosecution

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FSAI has worked with a commercial laboratory (Identigen) over the past two years to adapt NGS (next generation sequencing), so that it can be used as a DNA screening tool to check that the composition of the food matches what is stated on the product’s labelling or descripion. FSAI screened 45 plant-based foods and food supplements from Irish health food shops and supermarkets. It looked for the presence of all plant species in the selected products and identified 14 food products for further investigation that may contain undeclared plant species. Of these 14 products, one was confirmed to contain undeclared mustard at significant levels, which is an allergen that should be declared. Another product (oregano) was found to contain DNA from two undeclared plant species, one at significant levels. A third product was found to have no DNA from the plant species declared on the label, but instead rice DNA was identified. All three products are under further investigation. FSAI will apply the same technology for the screening of meat, poultry and fish products.

 Read the FSAI Press Release and the full report

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The US Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA) in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is offering an online course on “Intentional Adulteration (IA) Identification and Explanation of Mitigation Strategies”. The FDA's Food Safety Modernization Act requires that individuals identifying and explaining fraud mitigation strategies “have successfully completed training for the specific function at least equivalent to that received under a standardised curriculum recognised as adequate by FDA or be otherwise qualified through job experience to conduct the activities”. This online course is the “standardised curriculum” recognised by FDA, and successfully completing this course is one way to meet this training requirement.

Links to the availability of the course from FSPCA or FDA's website can be found here

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Researchers from the University of Guelph in collaboration with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have found high levels of fish mislabelling in the supply chain starting from imports and increasing as the supply moves along the chain to retail. The research team examined 203 samples from 12 key targeted species collected from various importers (23% of samples), processing plants (5.5%) and retailers (69.5%) in Ontario. The species of fish was identified in the samples using DNA barcoding. The results revealed that overall 32% of the 203 samples were mislabelled, with 17.6 % mislabelling at the import stage, 27.3% at processing plants and 38.1% at retailers. The authors commented that the higher mislabelling rate in samples collected from retailers, compared to that for samples collected from importers, indicates the role of distribution and repackaging in seafood mislabeling. Also, there is a lack of harmonisation in the regulatory framework between for example, Canada and the US, where there is a lack of equivalence in the commercial names given to fish species. This would be improved by giving the scientific name as well. 

Read the article here

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The 2019 Organic Market Report reveals that the UK organic market continues to grow. The market is now in to its 8th year of steady, loyal growth, growing +5.3% in 2018 and on target to reach £2.5bn by 2020.

The 2019 Organic Market Report is the most comprehensive report covering the organic market in the UK today. It is an essential read and reference document for anyone researching or working within the industry, selling organic products or assisting businesses in selling organic in the UK.

The report takes a detailed look at the sales trends across all channels and the major reasons for this growth – it includes updates on the performance of organic in supermarkets, independent retailers, the food service sector and a spotlight on home delivery.

It shares the output from recent consumer research that considers the organic customer, how they shop and what influences their decision making, as well as some interesting take-outs around hot topics like packaging and wider environmental issues that continue to influence shopper choices.

The report also covers farming and the opportunities for export and growth internationally. It takes a look at the year ahead and some of the key challenges and opportunities facing the organic industry.

The report is free for Soil Association Certification licensees (you just need your licence number) and costs £100 +VAT to purchase for non-licensees.

Download the 2019 Organic Market Report

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A Crown Court found that Enhanced Athlete had marketed and sold DNP (2,4-Dinitrophenol), a fat-burning chemical unsafe for human consumption. On 7 February 2019, the company was handed a £100,000 fine, and its former director was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence, community service and corporate restriction. During the trial, prosecutors stated that while DNP can burn fat, the chemical is “toxic to humans, causing serious harmful side effects and, in fact, fatalities”. Enhanced Athlete’s facilities in an industrial area of Wigton had been raided in 2017, and several kilos of DNP powder, tablets and related manufacturing machinery had been confiscated.This raid was a combined operation by FSA's National Food Crime Unit, The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, and Allerdale Borough Council.

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Mozzarella di Bufala Campana (MBC) is a PDO cheese produced from whole buffalo milk in specific regions of southern Italy. Due to the high price and the limited amount of buffalo milk, MBC is potentially subject to mislabelling, substitution or fraud. Italian researchers have used elemental and isotopic profiles of authentic samples of buffalo milk and the corresponding MBC samples collected in the reference area in winter and summer in an initial exploratory study. A model was developed to classify product categories for this cheese by merging MBC-PDO samples with non-PDO samples of buffalo mozzarella produced both inside and outside the reference area. Despite differences caused during processing, along with differences in the season and production area, the model was effective in distinguishing PDO and non-PDO mozzarella, particularly when non-PDO cheeses were made outside the MBC reference area.

 Read the abstract

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