All Posts (349)

The US Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is urging consumers to avoid supplements made with ginkgo biloba, which are often adulterated and have largely been shown to be ineffective in preventing dementia and improving circulation. The CSPI sent 10 samples for analysis, and 6 of these had far less ginkgo than advertised or showed evidence of having been adulterated with cheaper plant material. CSPI have written to the FDA to take action on gingo supplements. There is also other evidence, that up to 70% of gingo supplements on the US market are adulterated because the leaves of the ginkgo tree are expensive, and a large quantity of leaves is needed to produce ginkgo extracts.. The adulteration is quite sophisticated consisting of using flavonol rich plant materials such as the Japanese pagoda tree and buckwheat extracts to arrive at the pharmacopeial standard of 24% flavonol glycosides and 6% diterpene lactones. 

    Read CSPI's Press Release and associated article

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Fruit content and fruit authenticity are crucial to informing the consumer about the quality and authenticity of jam. However, jam is one of the most difficult products to extract undegraded DNA that can be amplified from the fruit ingredients being an acid high sugar product. Czech researchers have tested three extraction methods - two commercial kits and the CTAB method on 14 different jams to find which one produced the most well-amplifiable DNA. 

       Read the full article at: DNA extraction of jam

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JRC (the European Commission's Joint Research Centre) has published its latest April 2018 summary of articles about food fraud and adulteration from around the world. In this month's summary, there are 13 articles including 2 major incidents of fraud. One was by wine producers in Medoc region adding sugar to the grape must to boost alcohol content in 2016. The other was the use of Danish Duroc boars to produce the pigs to make the PDO Prosciutto di Parma and San Daniele, where only Italian breeds are allowed. Production of these two products has been suspended for 6 months. 

Read the April summary here

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Blockchain technology has the potential to transform the food industry and provide a new way of dealing with food safety and food fraud. This article by Sterling Crew is taken from his article in March edition of Food Science and Technology (free on line for IFST members). It examines its application to enhance transparency, tracking and traceability in the food supply chain, and considers how it could help to build consumer confidence and  give a more secure food supply system.

Read the article here


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Small amounts of low cost carob flour do not change the colour, aroma or taste characteristics of cocoa powder. Therefore, Spanish researchers have developed a NIR (near infra-red) method combined with chemometrics to determine that adulteration with carob flour has  taken place, and the amount of carob flour that has been used. Data sets using cocoa powders with different alkalisation levels, carob flours with three different roasting degrees, and adulterated samples prepared by blending cocoa powders with carob flour at several proportions, were obtained. For qualitative results, a principal component analysis (PCA) and a partial least squares discriminant analysis (PLS-DA) were used, giving a 100% classification accuracy to distinguish pure cocoa powders from adulterated samples. For quantitative analysis, a partial least squares (PLS) regression analysis was performed giving a root mean square error of prediction of 3.2%, thus making the method fit for purpose for determining the amount of carob flour in cocoa powder within this error.

              Read the abstract at: cocoa powder adulteration with carob flour

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The number of cases of food fraud has increased in Sweden in recent years. Last year, the Swedish Food Administration reported about 100 cases of  food fraud just in Sweden, and the number is rising. Violation of food law only imposes fines and is low priority. The risk of getting caught is therefore minimal, and the profits are greater than any fines. The Swedish government is proposing a change in the law so that serious crimes with food, feed and animal by-products should be punished with imprisonment for up to two years. In the case of minor administrative crimes, fines of up to 100,000 Swedish kronor may be imposed. 

   Read the article at: Increase in Penalties in Sweden

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Despite some technical issues with the link, the 8th April 2018 Newsletter is now available to read. There is a discussion about the future of the Network and three interesting articles:

  • There is an article on the EC’s JRC Knowledge Centre for Food Fraud and Quality. 
  • Our Centre of Expertise Profile is Food Forensics, which offers the latest DNA and Stable Isotope Ratio Analyses (SIRA). 
  • Merieux Nutriscience is one of the partners in the EU Project FoodIntegrity specialising in non-targeted screening analyses.

The Newsletter can be downloaded at: April 2018 Newsletter

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The annual operation coordinated by Europol and INTERPOL is supported by customs, police and national food regulatory bodies in addition to partners from the private sector. Since its first edition in 2011, the number of countries taking part in OPSON has grown every year, reflecting the growing commitment to tackle this issue. Figures from the latest haul in the joint Europol-INTERPOL investigation into counterfeit and substandard food has revealed how prevalent crime remains within the worldwide food system. Run over the course of four months (December 2017 – March 2018) across 67 countries, OPSON VII resulted in the total seizure of more than 3,620 tonnes and 9.7 million litres of either counterfeit or substandard food and beverages as a result of over 41 000 checks carried out at shops, markets, airports, seaports and industrial estates. In total, some 749 people were arrested or detained with investigations continuing in many countries.

In Europe, the close cooperation established between Europol and the EU Commission coordinating the EU Food Fraud Network led to the implementation of a specific project targeting the fraudulent trade of tuna. A comprehensive approach involving all stakeholders allowed the phenomenon to be tackled in an innovative and more effective manner via the simultaneous use of administrative and criminal enforcement tools. Europol will continue to support this multiagency approach in the upcoming editions of OPSON.

Other case studies investigated were: the sale of rotten meat in Belgium, fake baby milk powder in Spain, smuggling of perishable goods in France.

               Read the Europol Press Release at: Opson VII April Results

                Read the European Commission's Note on the Tuna Investigation

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In this scientific opinion, many aspects relating to the role of non-targeted spectroscopy based methods for food fraud detection are considered: (i) a review of the current non-targeted spectroscopic methods to include the general differences with targeted techniques; (ii) overview of in-house validation procedures including samples, data processing and chemometric techniques with a view to recommending a harmonised procedure; (iii) quality assessments including QC samples, ring trials and reference materials; (iv) use of “big data” including recording, validation, sharing and joint usage of databases. The spectroscopic methods considered are traditional vibrational spectroscopy, hyperspectral imaging and NMR. Conclusions of this opinion indicate that the key challenges faced by the research and routine testing communities include: a lack of guidelines and legislation governing both the development and validation of non-targeted methodologies, no common definition of terms, difficulty in obtaining authentic samples with full traceability for model building; the lack of a single chemometric modelling software that offers all the algorithms required by developers.

Read the full paper at: scientific opinion on non-targeted methods

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This paper presents an overview of the state of the art regarding the employment of IR spectroscopy in conjunction with chemometric techniques for the discrimination of different foodstuffs (such as fruits, nuts, vegetables, edible plants, grains, cereals, and vegetable oils) and beverages (such as wines, juices, and other alcoholic drinks) according to their cultivar.

Read the abstract at: IR varietal discrimination

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The Caribbean Red Snapper (Pargo) Lutjanus purpureus is the most economically important snapper in Brazil, which is sold, among other forms, as frozen fillets. 142 samples were collected between March 2013 to October 2014 from supermarkets in the State of Pará, North Brazil, which were processed by a single supplier. These were analysed using a DNA method, which sequenced a 600-bp fragment corresponding to the barcode portion of COI gene  to identify the fillets, with the aid of sequences from the public and control databases. Only L. purpureus and L. campechanus can be denominated “Pargo” in Brazil, but the results found that 22% of the samples were Rhomboplites aurorubens, a snapper with low commercial value in the country, revealing commercial fraud.

  Read the full paper at: Caribbean red snapper substitution

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Spanish researchers have carried out a preliminary study using an electronic tongue based on potential multistep pulse voltammetry, in combination with multivariate statistical techniques to detect and quantify sugar syrup in honey. Pure monofloral honey (heather, orange blossom and sunflower), sugar syrup (derived from rice, barley and maize), and samples simulating adulterated honey with different percentages of syrup (2.5, 5, 10, 20 and 40) were evaluated. An automatic, electrochemical system for cleaning and polishing the electronic tongue sensors (Ir, Rh, Pt, Au) significantly improved the repeatability and accuracy of the measurements. PCA analysis showed that the proposed methodology is able to distinguish between types of pure honey and syrup, and their different levels of adulterants. A subsequent PLS analysis successfully predicted the level of the adulterants in each honey, achieving good correlations considering the adjusting parameters. The measurement system here proposed has the potential to be a quick and effective option for the honey packaging sector. However, much further work is needed to see how effective this technique is with a wider range of monofloral honey, blended honey and commercial sugar syrups.

Read the abstract at: electronic tongue and honey adulteration

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In this study, NGS (next generation sequencing) using the Ion Torrent semiconductor platform was applied to identify meat species in several highly processed and complex meat products and meat derived broths (a döner kebab, a beef/pork paté, a meat based filling of tortellini, one instant granular preparation of broth stock made from meat, and two ready-to-use meat broths from different producers). Sequence analysis of reads from 6 libraries detected expected and unexpected meat species in the products. A measure of poor hygienic practice during production of the analysed products could be inferred using the number of human reads. In conclusion, NGS data is useful for authentication of highly processed products.

Read the abstract at: NGS of meat products

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Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy has increasingly been applied in the field of food authenticitation. Its instrumental variability is very low so that it is possible to compile large databases of authentic spectra. This review discusses the application of NMR for authenticating honey, beer and spices. For honey, it is possible to verify the botanical origin and exclude adulteration with sugars. In beer analysis, it is possible to distinguish between major beer types and to detect the geographical origin of beer. In spice analysis, NMR allows to detect crude adulterations (e.g. of saffron) or quantify marker ingredients such as essential oils.

                 Read the full review at: NMR authentication

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This report (Fisheries and Aquaculture Circular No. 1165. Rome, Italy) prepared by Alan Reilly (ex head of FSA-Ireland)  presents evidence highlighting the serious consequences of fraud for the fish sector. It describes the different types of fraud that can take place along the fish supply chain, for example: intentional mislabelling, species substitution, overglazing and overbreading, and the use of added water and undeclared water-binding agents to increase weight. 

It  shows that combating fish fraud is a complex task that requires the strengthening of national food regulatory programmes and the development of effective, science-based traceability systems and improved methods for fish authenticity testing. It highlights the need for the fish industry to develop and implement systems for fish fraud vulnerability assessment in order to identify potential sources of fish fraud within their supply chains, and to prioritise control measures to minimize the risk of receiving fraudulent or adulterated raw materials or ingredients. The publication also indicates an important role for the Codex Alimentarius Commission – to work in collaboration with countries inorder to develop international principles and guidelines designed to identify, manage and mitigate fraudulent practices in food trade and to develop guidelines to standardise food safety management systems for fish fraud vulnerability assessment. 

 Read the abstract here, and the full report

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The EU Food Fraud Network and the System for Administrative Assistance & Food Fraud has published its 2017 Annual Report. The Report shows  how the Network interacts with the other alert system RASFF in the exchange of cases for the AAC-AA (administrative assistance and cooperation in the non-compliance cases not representating risks to public health). It also exchanges cases in the AAC-FF, which are non-compliance food fraud cases along the agri-food chain.  The report gives information on the number of cases (for AAC-AA and AAC-FF) exchanged by country, and where mislabelling is the largest type of non-compliance for AAC-AA, and joint largest for AAC-FF with replacemt or adulteration of ingredients. 

The  total number cases exchanged for AAC-AA in 2017 was 597, which compares to 87 in 2016. This increase is largely due to the coordinated control programme for on-line products (reported on the website on 1 March).  There were 178 cases exchanged on AAC-FF in 2017, compared to 156 in 2016 and 8 in 2015. The caveat on these AAC-FF numbers is that they represent cases reported on a voluntary basis and only for cross-border non-compliance, but it does not include cases carried out by MSs (Member States) at a national level. The report also discusses the 16 coordinated cases concerning fraudulent practices by the European Commission and the appropriate MS, where the Commission acts as an intelligence hub for MSs.

Read the 2017 annual report: 2017 EU Food Fraud Network

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Floral Origin of Honey by Elemental Analysis

In this study, the concentrations of K, Ca, Mg, Na, P, and S and element ratios were determined in 140 Hungarian mono-floral honey samples (acacia, linden, sunflower, rape, chestnut, forest, silk grass, and facelia) by inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES). The results were chemometrically analysed using one-way ANOVA (LSD and Dunnett T3 test) and linear discriminant analysis (LDA) to determine the botanical origin based on the element content and element ratio of different honey types. Examination of element ratios showed that K/Na and K/Mg ratios were able to separate every honey type from each other with 100% cross-validation. 

Read the abstract at: Floral origin of honey

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The aim of this study is to evaluate the influence of some adulteration agents (fructose and hydrolysed inulin syrup) on physico-chemical parameters (pH, electrical conductivity, water activity and CIEL*a*b* parameters) and Raman spectra of some honey types (acacia, tilia and polyfloral) from the North East part of Romania.  Unlike physico-chemical analyses and color analysis, which determine only the degree of falsification of honey, Raman analysis enables identification of falsification agent based on specific vibrational bands recorded.

 Read the full paper at: Authenticity of Romanian Honey

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Brazilian authorities have reportedly moved to suspend exports from poultry processor BRF SA to the European Union earlier this month, according to Reuters. While only a temporary ban of about a month is envisaged, BRF is currently under investigation on the suspicion of food fraud to evade food safety checks. The export suspension affects 10 out of 35 BRF plants in Brazil. BRF is understood to have shipped 278,000t of poultry and processed products to Europe last year. It said its products shipped to Europe before March 16 could still be sold and consumed without restriction, adding that the suspension was “preemptive”.


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