All Posts (305)

Following extensive consultation with the Food and Drink Industry, Campden BRI, one of our Food Authenticity Centres of Expertise, publishes a report of industry needs that can be met through innovation in science and technology. The consultation spanned ‘pre-farm to post-fork’, so many needs were identified.

Commonly expressed needs:

  • Sustaining product quality in the face of rising costs of operations and materials
  • Soil health - recognition of soil as a resource and methods for its protection
  • Human microbiota - understanding and harnessing the role of gut microbes in diet-related health conditions
  • Anti-microbial resistance - addressing its significance for the food and drink sector
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber-security - managing the benefits and risks of the ‘connected world’ (e.g. Internet of Things, ’Big Data’, and machine learning)

Long-standing needs that are common to different parts of the supply chain, include:

  • Assuring product safety through systems and analytical tools
  • Encouraging consumer well-being through healthy diets
  • Protecting consumers and industry from food fraud
  • Encouraging sustainable practices, reduced use of resources and adding value to waste
  • Tackling industry’s ´skills shortage´.

Read full report


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Italian researchers have developed a new analytical method using reverse phase high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) coupled to an electrospray source with a tandem quadrupole-time-of-flight (ESI-Q-ToF) mass spectrometer for the full characterisation and quantitation of the different classes of fatty acids and acylglycerols in lipid samples in a single chromatographic run. The free fatty acids in the samples are derivatised using  2-hydrazinoquinoline, which does not involve trans-esterification with the other mono, di and triglycerides of the sample, and allows the free fatty acids to be identified and quantified. This new analytical method provides a full profile of fatty acids, mono-, di- and triglycerides within a relatively short chromatographic run (less than 40 min), with low operating back-pressure (less than 110 bar).

The method was validated by characterising two different types of olive oils. Free fatty acid content was quantified, and the results are consistent with literature data. The method was used to characterise cow milk and an infant formula, after the precipitation of proteins and phospholipids, and proved suitable for the detection of short chain fatty acids, free fatty acids and glycerides highlighting differences in the composition of the two milks.

Read the abstract at: FFA determination

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German researchers have developed a simple non-targeted approach to authenticate the plant species origin of monofloral honey using HS-GC-IMS (headspace gas chromatography ion mobility spectrometer) combined with optimised chemometric techniques as a complementary tool to proton NMR profiling. Whereas NMR profiling still requires comparatively precise sample preparation, pH adjustment in particular, HS-GC-IMS fingerprinting may be considered an alternative approach for a truly fully automated, cost-efficient, and in particular highly sensitive method. 

The HS-GC-IMS-based PCA–LDA model was composed of two linear functions of  discrimination        and 10 selected PCs that discriminated rapeseed, acacia, and honeydew honeys with a predictive accuracy of 98.6%.

Read the abstract at: Headspace authentication of honey

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The Poultrymeat Marketing Regulation permits a certain amount of unavoidable added (extraneous) water during the processing and cooling of whole chicken, and chicken and turkey parts. When there is more added water in the chicken/turkey than laid down in the Regulation, then a declaration has to be added to the label in the format ("Content of water above the EC limits"). The French Government DGCCRF ( Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes), conducted its annual study to measure the limits of extraneous water in 44 samples of frozen and chilled whole chicken (11), and chicken and turkey parts (33) collected from both processing plants, and wholesale and retail outlets.

Of the 44 samples, 10 (23%) did not conform to the Regulation limits of extraneous water, and all of these were poultry parts. Seven warnings were issued and one action taken by the police as a result    of the study.

Read the article at: French poultry study

Also read the summary of the DGCCRF's study in French at: DGCCRF study

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The European Commission has  released its report concerning the Fitness Check on General Food Law (Regulation (EC) No 178/2002)

The main findings were:

  • The General Food Law Regulation is still relevant today with respect to the current trends: growth and competitiveness and increased globalisation. Nevertheless, it is less adequate to address new challenges like food sustainability in general, and more specifically, food waste;
  • Overall, the General Food Law Regulation has achieved its core objectives, namely high protection of human health and consumers' interests and the smooth functioning of the internal market;
  • No systemic failures have been identified;
  • Current food safety levels are more favourable than before the adoption of the General Food Law Regulation (e.g. food largely free of pesticide residues and of veterinary medicinal product residues or below the EU legal limits, re-evaluation programmes of existing authorised substances in place etc.);
  • The systematic implementation of the risk analysis principle in EU food law has overall raised the level of protection of public health;
  • The creation of EFSA has improved the scientific basis of EU measures. Major improvements in increasing EFSA's scientific capacity of expertise, the quality of its scientific outputs, its collection of scientific data and in the development and harmonisation of risk assessment methodologies have taken place;
  • Better traceability of food and feed in the entire agri-food chain;
  • Better transparency of the EU decision-making cycle;
  • EU emergency measures and existing crisis management arrangements have overall achieved consumer health protection and the efficient management and containment of food safety incidents. Nevertheless, the 2011 E.coli outbreak in sprouts in Germany has high-lightened the need to continuously re-evaluate the management of food crises;
  • The General Food Law Regulation has contributed to the effective functioning of the internal market by creating a level playing field for all feed and food business operators in the EU market and reducing disruptions of trade where problems have occurred. The value of the EU internal trade in the food and drink sector has increased by 72% over the past decade. It has also contributed to the EU product safety recognition worldwide and to an improved quality perception for EU products in non-EU markets. The EU food and drink industry has achieved a more globally competitive position since 2003 vis-à-vis the main trading partners.

Nevertheless, certain shortcomings have been identified:

  • There are still national differences in the implementation and enforcement of the EU legislative framework; however, these are not systematic but occur rather on a case-by-case basis;
  • Despite overall considerable progress, transparency of risk analysis remains an important issue in terms of perception:
    • As regards risk assessment in the context of authorisation dossiers, EFSA is bound by strict confidentiality rules and by the legal requirement to primarily base its assessment on industry studies, laid down in the GFL Regulation and in the multiple authorisation procedures in specific EU food legislation. These elements lead civil society to perceive a certain lack of transparency and independence, having a negative impact on the acceptability of EFSA's scientific work by the general public. There is therefore a need to address these issues in order to protect the reputation of EFSA's work;
    • Risk communication has not always been effective with a negative impact on consumers' trust and on the acceptability of risk management decisions;
  • A number of negative signals have been identified on the capacity of EFSA to maintain a high level of scientific expertise and to fully engage all MS in scientific cooperation;
  • Lengthy authorisation procedures in some sectors (e.g. feed additives, plant protection products, food improvement agents, novel foods, health claims) slow down the market entry process.

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It emerged at the FSA's Board Meeting in December 2017, that Government funding of between £4 to £5 million has been requested if the National Food Crime Unit want to move to the second phase of carrying out food fraud investigations on top of it intelligence gathering activities. FSA's Chair, Heather Hancock is awaiting a response from Ministers and the Treasury as to whether the second phase can begin and whether further funding is forthcoming.

Read the article at: NCU funding request

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Following updates to food safety certification standards and publication of new U.S. regulatory requirements, the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention and collaborators undertook a project to (i) develop a scheme to classify food fraud–related adulterants based on their potential health hazard and (ii) apply this scheme to the adulterants in a database of 2,970 food fraud records. The classification scheme was developed by a panel of experts in food safety and toxicology from the food industry, academia, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Categories and subcategories were created through an iterative process of proposal, review, and validation using a subset of substances known to be associated with the fraudulent adulteration of foods. Once developed, the scheme was applied to the adulterants in the database. The resulting scheme included three broad categories: 1, potentially hazardous adulterants; 2, adulterants that are unlikely to be hazardous; and 3, unclassifiable adulterants. Application of the scheme to the 1,294 adulterants in the database resulted in 45% of adulterants classified in category 1 (potentially hazardous). Twenty-seven percent of the 1,294 adulterants had a history of causing consumer illness or death, were associated with safety-related regulatory action, or were classified as allergens. These results reinforce the importance of including a consideration of food fraud–related adulterants in food safety systems.

Read the abstract at: Adulterant hazard classification

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Multispectral Imaging for Plant Food Quality

This article is a comprehensive review of the use of multispectral imaging combined with chemometrics to determine the composition and quality of various plant-based foods; cereals (wheat, maize), legumes (soybean, peanut), tubers (potato, sweet potato), fruits (apple, pear, kiwi), and vegetables (white radish, sugar beet).  The method is rapid and can give a visualisation of for example the distribution fructose, glucose and sucrose in unripe and ripe fruit. Future developments should make it a useful industrial tool to control raw materials and production. 

Read the full article at: Multispectral imaging of plant foods

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Review of Herb and Spice Fraud

Northern Ireland researchers have publish a review of fraud in the global herb and spice market. This market is estimated at having a value of $4billion. This review looks at the cases and effects of adulteration in the herb and spice industry, and analytical methods being used to detect it, and ultimately prevent it. 

Read the abstract at: Herb and spice fraud

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Italian researchers collected 118 authentic cheese samples of  four PDO cheeses (Taleggio PDO, Asiago PDO, Pecorino Toscano PDO, and Provolone Valpadana PDO) from 5 regions over a 3 year period. They analysed the dataset for five isotopic parameters: δ13C and δ15N on the casein fraction and on whole cheese; δ13C on the fat fraction of the cheese, and taking into account the variables of year, season, location and altitude, the characteristic isotopic ratios of each cheese are stable within a narrow range. 

 After applying chemometric analyses of principal component analysis (PCA) and partial least squares regression-discriminant analysis (PLS-DA), the data showed a good separation between cheese classes, particularly for the Pecorino Toscano cheese type. The results indicate the usefulness of these isotopic indicators as markers of authenticity for these PDO Italian cheeses.

Read the abstract at: Authenticity of Italian PDO cheeses

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Following Washington Post revelations casting doubt on the authenticity of the products from some of the largest "organic" producers of milkeggs and imported grains, Republican Senator John Faso is proposing a bill in Congress, which would effectively double the budget of the USDA's National Organic Program. The Bill would also call for the modernisation of the USDA system that tracks imports of purportedly "organic" foods, allowing organic inspectors to share investigative information across a supply chain. In addition the USDA would have to file an annual report to Congress detailing its organic investigations. It is hoped the Bill would restore consumer confidence in the USDA organic system, which covers a $47 billion industry.

Read the article at: US Organic Fraud

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16-O-methylcafestol (16-OMC)  is used as a marker for non-Arabica coffees (Robusta coffee). UK researchers have analysed lipophilic extracts from 30 authentic roasted Arabica coffees by high-field and low-field proton NMR spectroscopy, and found a small marker peak, which has subsequently been identified as 16-OMC and 16-O-methylkahweol.  This is the first time these markers have been found in Arabica coffee, and previously thought to only exist in non-Arabica coffee. However, the level of 16-OMC in Arabica coffee is very low and much higher in Robusta coffee. Therefore, using low-field NMR, Robusta in Arabica could be detected at levels of the order of 1–2% w/w. A surveillance study of retail purchased “100% Arabica” coffees found that 6 out of 60 samples displayed the marker signal to a degree commensurate with adulteration at levels of 3–30% w/w. 

Read the full article at: Arabica coffee authenticity

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Chicken meat that has been removed from the bones by a machine must be labelled as ‘mechanically deboned’ under EU rules. However, this label pushes down the price of meat, holding back the competitiveness of the sector.

EU-funded project MEAQUAS aimed to boost the competitiveness of chicken meat produced in the EU with innovative tools to assess the quality of mechanically deboned meat. This will allow high quality mechanically deboned meat produced in the EU to be identified and compared to lower quality mechanically deboned meat which is often imported from outside the EU.

Project scientists have developed a new method to automatically analyse and grade the meat using novel staining markers that highlight muscular structures. The software then uses image processing algorithms to quantify the degree of degradation in the meat.

MEAQUAS’ technology quantifies the loss of structural integrity in the chicken meat, a key indicator of the meat’s quality and a way of proving that mechanically deboned meat is of the same quality as hand-removed meat.

MEAQUAS hopes that regulatory bodies will define criteria for different meat qualities using the results of the project’s measuring technology. Ultimately, quality screening will enable high quality mechanically deboned meat to be labelled simply as ‘chicken meat’, improving its market value.

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This paper reviews the use of a range of fingerprinting techniques:- mass spectrometry (MS) fingerprinting including IRMS (isotopic ratio MS), PTR-MS (proton transfer reaction MS),   ESI-MS (electrospray ionisation MS), chromatographic fingerprinting, electrophoretic fingerprinting, spectroscopic fingerprinting, and other fingerprinting methods. The fingerprinting technique has to be combined with chemometrics to permit interpretation. The review gives some examples in the use of these techniques for determining the authenticity of foods.

Read the full paper at: Fingerprinting methods in authenticity

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University of East Anglia (UEA) is offering another free on-line course on Identifying Food Fraud starting 8 January. The course lasts 4 weeks, and the sessions are for 2 hours/week, in the form of short documentaries, lectures and quizzes covering: 

•Introduction to methods of food fraud detection

•Infra-red detection of fraud in coffee

•Verifying the authenticity of honey using stable isotopes

•Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy and the horsemeat scandal

The course is aimed at first year undergraduates and food company technical managers to raise awareness of methods of analysis to detect food adulteration.

More details and registration at: Identifying food fraud

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Russian researchers developed a DNA multiplex assay based on mitochondrial ATPase, which could simultaneously detect ten species (beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, cat, dog, rat, mouse and human) at 0.1-0.2% levels in mixed meat species. They collected 53 samples of meat products both raw and processed from supermarkets in Moscow and the Moscow Region. Forty-nine of the samples were found to contain species not declared on the label, with the most frequent adulteration being the substitution of high value meat (such as beef and turkey) by chicken, which suggests economically motivated substitution. Two samples had both rat and human DNA contamination suggesting very poor hygienic practices. The researchers admit that the assay is sensitive and some of the samples with non-declared ovine DNA could be through cross-contamination.

Read the article at: Russian meat survey  and the abstract in Meat Science here

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JRC's monthly summary for food fraud cases has been published for November 2017. Some of the cases highlighted are:-

A number of fish fraud cases in Italy, an extensive organic fruit and vegetable fraud in Sicily, counterfeit Australian wine in China, honey fraud in Corsica and Tuscany, and sub-standard olive oil in Brazil.

Read the Summary at: JRC November 2017

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A recent investigation by the US personal finance site, NerdWallet reveals that some fruit are incorrectly labelled as organic when they are not. The report states that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is aware that some labelling fraud is occurring, but it has not taken necessary action to ensure the integrity of the organic label. NerdWallet found that pineapples grown in Costa Rica by the Del Valle Verde Corp. pineapples (under the brand name "Costa Verde") were approved as organic by a USDA-accredited certifier, even though the grower was using pesticides that are not approved as organic, among other practices not conforming with the US organic regulations. The USDA had investigated the case but no action has been taken. The  author of NerdWallet blog also found that a Costa Rican exporter, Ricardo Rudin Mathieu, mislabelled roughly 400,000 pineapples as organic, and those pineapples were later shipped to the U.S. and Canada.

Read the article at: US Organic fruit fraud, and the NerdWallet blog

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The Food Protection and Defense Institute (FPDI) (University of Minnesota) has written a review on economically motivation adulteration (EMA) and its implications for public health. FPDI categorises EMA into eight adulteration methods: dilution, substitution, artificial enhancement, mislabelling, trans-shipment and origin masking, counterfeiting, theft and resale, and intentional distribution of contaminated product. The scope of EMA public health impacts are illustrated through understanding each adulteration method with an associated public health impact examples, which are taken from the FPDI’s Food Adulteration Incidents Registry

                                                                                                                                                                                 Read the full article at: EMA and public health

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