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The UK food industry has asked the government to waive aspects of competition law to allow firms to co-ordinate and direct supplies with each other after a no-deal Brexit.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said it repeatedly asked ministers for clarity on a no-deal scenario.

Existing rules prohibit suppliers and retailers discussing supply or pricing.

The industry says leaving in the autumn could pose more supply problems than the original Brexit date last March.

The FDF, which represents a wide range of food companies and trade associations, said: "We asked for these reassurances at the end of last year. But we're still waiting."

The boss of one leading retailer told the BBC: "At the extreme, people like me and people from government will have to decide where lorries go to keep the food supply chain going. And in that scenario we'd have to work with competitors, and the government would have to suspend competition laws."

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2194260207?profile=RESIZE_710xA Dutch meat trader who was sentenced in France for his role in a 2013 scam that passed off horse meat as beef to food producers across Europe has been arrested by Spanish authorities.

The man, Johannes Fasen, was sentenced in April to two years in prison for his part in the 2013 horsemeat scandal, along with three of his partners in the plot to deceive a French company and consumers by selling 500 tonnes of cheap horse meat as beef.

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Egyptian veterinary reseachers collected fifty samples of each type of different meat product (luncheon chicken, luncheon meat, sausage, beefburger, minced meat, and kofta) from different supermarkets in Assiut City, making a total of 450 samples. All of the samples were analysed by different microscopy techniques (light, fluorescence, histochemical microscopy, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM)) for the detection of non-muscle adulteration.  Haematoxylin-eosin (HE) staining was used for general histological examinations, and different histochemical techniques were used to stain parafinised sections.The adulterating tissues detected were:- nuchal ligament, large elastic blood vessels, muscular artery. elastic fibers, lung, cardiac muscle fibers, tendon, spongy bone, bone of immature animals, adipose tis­sue, cartilage (hyaline arid white fibrocartilage), and smooth muscle of visceral organs. SEM detected contamination of the minced meat by bacteria and yeast. Fluorescence microscopy was used as an effective method for the detection of bone and cartilage. The findings of the present work provide qualitative evaluations and the detection of unauthorised tissues in different meat products using different effective histological techniques.

1337352593?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the full paper

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A Rapid Evaporative Ionization Mass Spectrometry (REIMS) method, innovatively combined with an electric soldering iron, was developed for the  authentication of honey and identification of sugar adulteration by Chinese researchers in collaboration with Waters Corporation UK. Evaluation of the method was undertaken using monofloral honey (acacia, rape, chaste, jujube, citrus, medlar), syrup (corn and rice), and simulated polyfloral honey and adulterated syrup-honey samples. The classification of botanical origins of honey samples were achieved with a total correct rate of 99.66% through the proposed principal component analysis-linear discriminate analysis (PCA-LDA). The monofloral honey samples (acacia honey, chaste honey, rape honey) could be well distinguished from polyfloral honey (their binary and ternary mixtures). High-value honey (acacia honey) adulterated with low-value honey (rape honey) could be detected from the level of 40% down to 5%. C3 syrup (rice syrup) and C4 syrup (corn syrup) and their adulterated syrup-honey samples in different levels (5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40%) were also appropriately identified in relation to the adulteration level in a near linear tendency. The detection limit can reach 5–10% adulteration level, which can meet the requirement of real adulteration identification.

124953902?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the abstract

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Malaysian researchers have developed a heptaplex polymerase chain reaction assay targeting short amplicon length (73–198 bp) for the simultaneous detection and differentiation of cow, buffalo, chicken, cat, dog, pig, and fish species in raw and processed food using species-specific primers targeting mitochondrial cytb, ND5, and 16s rRNA genes. The assay was validated using prepared meatballs adulterated with different species  and using different process conditions. The detection limit was 0.01–0.001 ng of DNA in the pure state and 0.5% meat in meatball products. 

3326990966?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the abstract

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EFSA has identified its research priorities for the next five to 10 years, including projects to tackle food fraud. One of the priorities, under its safe food systems programme, is to find ways to make the detection of food fraud quicker through improved surveillance systems. Another under its risk assessment programme is to explore the benefits of using blockchain technology along the food chain. 

128507205?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the article and EFSA's priorities list

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Targetted surveillance testing by CFIA in 2018 found that 78% of the 240 honey samples collected from across Canada, were authentic, including 100% of Canadian honey sampled. The remaining samples found the presence of added sugars. Normally CFIA analyse honeys for the presence of sugar cane and corn syrup, while this surveillance testing also included looking for rice syrup and beet sugar in honey using a new scientific testing method. 

1682313636?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the article and the CFIA summary report

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3211761143?profile=RESIZE_710xThirty-three countries*, INTERPOL, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) joined forces in the Europol-coordinated operation Viribus for a massive crackdown on the trafficking of doping materials and counterfeit medicines. The operation, led by the Italian NAS Carabinieri and co-led by the Financial Unit of the Hellenic Police (Ελληνική Αστυνομία), is the largest action of this kind ever.

Overall results during the entire operation:

  • 3.8 million illicit doping substances and counterfeit medicines seized (seizures included doping substances, dietary supplements, medicines and sport and food supplements);
  • 17 organised groups dismantled;
  • 9 underground labs disrupted;
  • 234 suspects arrested;
  • 839 judicial cases opened;
  • Almost 1 000 individuals reported for the production, commerce or use of doping substances. 

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Canada's reputation as a safe and reliable supplier of pork products during a devastating outbreak of swine fever in China and other parts of Asia could explain why a shipment to China fraudulently claimed it was cleared by Canadian inspectors. As a result of the falsified export certificate, China has now suspended shipments of pork from Canada. There are fears that a shortage of pork in China caused by the slaughter of millions of pigs during the spread of African swine fever, will give rise to similar food fraud incidents. The Canadian and Chinese aauthorities are working closely to resolve this problem.

3188235879?profile=RESIZE_710x   Read the article here

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Operation Opson VIII, coordinated by INTERPOL and Europol with police, customs, national food regulatory authorities and private sector partners in 78 countries took part in the five-month operation, which ran from December 2018 through April 2019. More than USD 117 million worth of potentially dangerous fake food and drink was seized in the  18.7 million items recovered in shops, markets and during transport checks, which also saw 672 individuals arrested worldwide.Tampered expiry dates on cheese and chicken, controlled medicines added to drink products and meat stored in unsanitary conditions were some of the offences discovered during this operation.

There were three specific targetting case studies during this operation. Case 1 -targetting organic fraud led by the EU Commission with the support of Europol was run across 16 EU Member States to detect fraudulent practices pertaining to this field. More than 90 000 tonnes of suspicious organic products were checked, after which 9 individuals were arrested by the Spanish Guardia Civil (SEPRONA).

Case 2 - 10 EU Member States took part in an action led by the UK targeting the sale of 2,4-Dinitrophenol (DNP), a toxic chemical which is sold as a fat burner (predominantly online). Consumption of DNP can have severe consequences for the health of consumers and has proven fatal in a number of instances.

Case 3 - run across 14 European countries in order to uncover possible fraudulent practices pertaining to coffee labelled as 100% Arabica. With the support of Europol and the EU Commission, this action focused on the substitution of pure Arabica coffee (coffee variety of the highest quality) by cheaper lowland coffee (Robusta). In total, nearly 400 coffee samples were analysed as part of this action. 

3134185755?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the Europol Press Release

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The Albanian NFA has uncovered a major fraud where vegetable fat labelled as margarine manufactured in Ukraine was imported and then sold as "butter" in Albania. The same importer also labelled some of the product as "buttermilk" and the Ukranian origin changed to Germany. After 5 inspections, the NFA fined the importer a total of Albanian Lek 2.9 million (around £21,000) and removed 47 tons of margarine from the market.

3133650063?profile=RESIZE_710x  Read the article here

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In order to address the issues of how to detect and mitigate against food fraud, Michigan State Universityand the Global Food Safety Center Mars, Beijing have considered  the need for a method to manage the information and activities around a food fraud strategy. In this research paper, four illustrative examples are considered including a response to: new public policy priorities, a new food fraud incident, and a review of a new countermeasure or control system. It concludes that current food fraud countermeasures are often focusing on tactical testing not strategic management. Food fraud strategy is more effective if the management system connects all activities with a focus on prevention not detection.

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Beef burgers that failed to meet legal standards were sold to charities tackling food poverty in France. Using European FEAD funds (Funds for European Aid to the Most Deprived), food charities (Banques Alimentaires, French Red Cross, Restaurants du Coeur, and Secours Populaire Français) allocated €5.2million to purchase around 1,500 tonnes of frozen beefburgers and distribute to the 5 million people living in food poverty. However, these burgers were found to have excess fat, poor quality meat and defects in composition. The charities removed the frozen burgers from their distribution networks and informed the national enforcement authority (DGCCRF). Its investigations traced the poor quality burgers to a French company, which had purchased the burgers through another intermediary Franch company from Poland. Polish investigators have also been contacted to carry out their own investigations. DGCCRF will pursue the French companies through the courts, and indicate that the facts point to "deception by an organised gang". 

3076302712?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the full article here

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According to the first EU-wide intellectual property crime threat assessment from Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), most criminal activity involving counterfeiting is carried out by increasingly professionalised organised crime networks, which can reap large profits while running relatively few risks.

Food and drinks remain highly popular items for counterfeiters, with the EU consistently emerging as a major destination market for counterfeit food and drinks. Detected counterfeit food products include baby milk powder, stock cubes, cheese, coffee, olive oil and pasta. Several of these goods have been found in groceries and supermarkets, illustrating that they also infiltrate the legal supply chain. As the counterfeit goods are almost always of substandard quality and produced in unhygienic environments, they can pose a serious risk to the health and wellbeing of consumers. In some cases, counterfeit food has even been found to contain dangerous or hazardous ingredients. Law enforcement authorities regularly detect other types of counterfeit goods alongside counterfeit food and drinks, highlighting how organised crime groups are frequently involved in trading an ever wider range of different counterfeit goods. In general, there appears to be an overall professionalisation of the organised crime groups involved in food counterfeiting.

Besides food, counterfeit alcoholic beverages pose a considerable risk to EU consumers. Spirits and wine are especially popular goods targeted for counterfeiting by organised crime groups. They frequently place cheap wine in bottles containing fake expensive wine labels, sometimes even adding pure alcohol on counterfeit spirits. Production methods have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years, with some organised crime groups operating their own production lines, including the packaging and labelling of the product. Another method is to use legitimate production lines one day a week or month for the production of counterfeits.

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Modern analytical measurement technologies for food authentication, such as infrared, NMR, mass spectrometry and chromatography, produce the data (spectrum, chromatogram) recorded in digital form. A measurement on a single sample typically comprises thousands of numbers, which is many more than the number of samples, meaning that the experiment overall is underdetermined. Furthermore, chemically different specimens often give rise to quite similar measurements, especially in some of the spectroscopy methods, where there are large numbers of overlapped spectral bands. The techniques of multivariate analysis are especially suitable for dealing with this kind of data to get the best out of these complex and unwieldy datasets.

In this scientific opinion paper, the advantages of a multivariate strategy compared with univariate assessments are discussed, and selected techniques that are now well established in analytical chemistry, such as the data compression methods of principal component analysis are examined. Predictive approaches suitable for authentication applications: discriminant and classification strategies, and class-modelling techniques are also considered. Validation is critical to the application of multivariate techniques. Also, the wider aspects of experimental design, such as the importance of representative sampling are discussed and illustrated from real-world examples of food authenticity problems. 

Read the abstract here

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Pictured above is Bhavna Parmar of the UK Food Standards Agency with Anne Bridges of AACC International.

The Codex Committee on Methods of Analysis and Sampling (CCMAS) held its 40th Session in Budapest, Hungary, from 27 to 31 May 2019. The Session was attended by 49 Member countries and 1 Member organization and 12 observer organisations.

Selvarani Elahi, representing the UK Government Chemist, attended as part of the UK delegation together with colleagues from the Food Standards Agency and the Association of Public Analysts.

CCMAS considers methods of analysis for Codex standards and testing in relation to international food trade. CCMAS 40 discussed analytical methods for nutritional metals, acid value and free fatty acids in palm oil, milk and milk product commodities, 'gluten free' labelling in products containing cereals, pulses and legumes, and herbs & species. The meeting also received updates from working groups on the revision of three substantive Codex documents: general standard for methods of analysis and sampling, guidelines on measurement uncertainty and guidelines on sampling. Work on these documents continues in order to reach global consensus.

As there is increasing interest in food integrity and food authenticity at Codex, the poster on the Food Authenticity Network attracted attention from delegates. Follow-up discussions are planned with member countries on creating ‘country-specific’ pages on the Food Authenticity Network for their countries in order to create a truly global network. Discussions will also continue with the food industry and observer organisations looking to support the work of the Network.

If you would like further information on supporting the Network, please contact us on

The Food Authenticity Network is mentioned in the meeting report, which is available from the Codex Alimentarius website.

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JRC has just published its monthly summary on articles highlighting food fraud or adulteration from around the world. There are 11 references dealing with a wide range of problems encountered including misdescribed olive oil, fish species misdescription and adulterated saffron.

Read the April 2019 Newsletter and find earlier Newsletters here

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Chinese researchers have developed a method for the rapid visual detection of adulterated meat based on both the lateral flow strip (LFS) platform and on polymerase chain reaction (PCR). After the rapid extraction of genomic components from meat, the on-site amplification of the target DNA of  duck meat is carried out with the rationally designed functional FITC- and biotin-modified primer set, thereby producing numerous double-stranded DNA  products dually labelled with FITC and biotin. The FITC-labelled terminal end of the products binds to the pre-immobilized FITC antibody on the test line of the strip, and the biotin-labelled terminal end binds to the streptavidin-conjugated gold nanoparticles, resulting in a visible test line on the LFS for the rapid identification of duck meat in adulterated beef. After optimization, an adulteration ratio as low as 0.05% can be easily measured. Twenty two commercial processed meat samples were tested with this new method, and 4 adulterated samples were successfully identified by both the routine PCR method and the new LFS method. The LFS method is simple in design, convenient in operation, and can be easily extended to the identification of other adulterating meat species just by replacing the modified primers. 

 Read the abstract here





Example of a lateral flow strip for target DNA detection


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Ecuadorian prawn producers, who are members of the Sustainable Shrimp Partnership (SSP), have teamed up with the Food Trust ecosystem, which will provide a blockchain database to safeguard traceability and integrity from farm to fork so that consumers can have complete trust and assurance on what they are buying. SSP’s members, which comprise of responsible prawn producers based in Ecuador, will enter data about how the prawn is produced onto the blockchain system. Ultimately, retailers around the world will be able to see this data and trace it at every stage so that they can ensure the quality of the prawn they are selling to consumers. SSP plans to enable consumer access via an app, enabling individuals to view provenance data about the prawns they buy.

  Read the article here

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NSF International, working with a retailer, are launching a blockchain traceability service for the beef supply chain. The service will link details of individual cattle on farms all the way through to consumer purchases. Each animal will be given a unique identifier built into a RFID ear tag, along with a sample of DNA and its GPS farm location. As the animal matures, details of its weight and age are entered into the blockchain database, with all the other details as it is processed along the supply chain. This will allow all the supply chain partners to access the blockchain database to improve transparency and traceability. Information about an animal's provenance and quality will even be available to consumers via a mobile phone app and QR code on the pack of beef.   

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