Mark Woolfe's Posts (252)

The Public Analyst (PA) function at West Yorkshire Analytical Services (WYAS) will cease at the end of March. WYAS is the official control laboratory for five West Yorkshire local authorities, but from April, it will continue its food and beverage testing to private companies and local authorities on an informal basis. The closure of WYAS's PA function follows close on the heels of the closure of Staffordshire Scientific Services, and is a result in both cases of reduced local authority financial support. There are now only four PA laboratories left in England financed by local authorities - Hampshire, Kent, Lancashire and Worcestershire. The PA laboratories in Hull and Wolverhampton are run by the private company Public Analyst Scientific Services. 

Overall it shows the Public Analyst service in England is losing its capability and capacity to enforce food standards legislation effectively. The APA (Association of Public Analysts) reported that the number of official control samples taken by local authorities fell by 26% from 92,122 samples in 2010/11 to 68,471 in 2014/15. The service needs more government support to continue effectively.

Read the article at: WYAS PA to end

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The Treasury has given the FSA an extra £14million on top of the original budget of £89million for 20018/19. The extra money is to support the priorities of the FSA to ensure a high standard of food safety and consumer protection after Brexit. It is also to fund Phase 2 of the NFCU (National Food Crime Unit), which will build up the investigative capabalities of the Unit. Phase 2 is hoped to be operational by 1 April 2019.

Read the article at: FSA budget increase

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Belgium Investigating Another Meat Fraud

The Belgium's Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain, FASFC, has been investigating a meat supply company Veviba and withdrawn approval of  a meat cutting plant and a cold store run by the company, which supplies mincemeat and oxtail to Belgian retailers. In addition, it has announced that Hong Kong, Ivory Coast and Kosovo had been recipients until the end of 2016 of meat distributed by Veviba, including products that had the dates they were frozen on changed. Belgian Agriculture Minister Denis Ducarme accused Veviba of using "mafia practices" when it came to distributing meat. The report by FASFC has advised consumers not to eat raw mincemeat from the affected retailers, and also that the three nations affected, had been notified of the problem.

  Read the FASFC Press Release and reports: Belgian meat fraud

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Researchers at BfR (the German Federal Institute of Risk Assessment) have developed a non-targeted method to detect paprika adulteration using Fourier transform mid-infrared (FT-MIR) spectroscopy and one-class soft independent modelling of class analogy (OCSIMCA). One-class models based on commercially available paprika powders were developed. The performances of the models for adulteration detection were tested by predicting spiked paprika samples with various types of fraudulent material and levels of adulterations including 1% (w/w) Sudan I, 1% (w/w) Sudan IV, 3% (w/w) lead chromate, 3% (w/w) lead oxide, 5% (w/w) silicon dioxide, 10% (w/w) polyvinyl chloride, and 10% (w/w) gum arabic. By applying different preprocessing methods including standard normal variate (SNV), first and second derivatives, smoothing, and combinations thereof, it was possible to identify the adulterants with a specificity of greater than 80% .

Read the abstract at: paprika adulteration

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Australian researchers used mid-infrared (MIR) spectroscopy coupled with attenuated total reflectance (ATR), and applied multivariate analysis, to analyse a series of different beer types in order to confirm their identity (e.g. ale vs lager, commercial vs craft beer). Correct classification rates of 100% were achieved in order to differentiate between ale and lager and also between commercial and craft beer sample types, respectively.  Furthermore, dissolved gases in the beer products were proven not to interfere as overlapping artefacts in the analysis. The benefits of using MIR-ATR for rapid and detailed analysis coupled with multivariate analysis can be considered a valuable tool for researchers and brewers interested in quality control, traceability and food authenticity.

             Read the abstract at: MIR-ATR of Beer

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US import figures suggest countries are selling more organic agricultural products than they have capacity to produce, raising questions about the likelihood of food fraud and mislabelled organic products entering the US market. According to the figures presented at a recent USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum, US-produced organic corn and soybean increasd 12.9 per cent and 12.3 per cent respectively since 2014, making the US the largest producer of both these crops. Import data, however, shows that foreign-produced organic-labelled products have also increased, with imports of organic soybean increasing 13 per cent and imports of organic corn increasing 5.9 per cent in 2017. According to Peter Golbitz, founder of organic consulting service Agromeris, the amount of organic-labelled corn and soybean being imported from some countries into the US is above what those countries can produce, raising concerns of mislabelling and fraud. This is one of the reasons why a new Bill is being proposed called the "Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act", which would seek to provide the USDA's National Organic Program with between $15m and $20m a year from 2018 to 2023 to upgrade compliance and enforcement actions in the US and abroad, while an additional $5m would improve tracking of international organic trade.

Read the article at: Organic Import Data

 Also look at our previous News on this USDA initiative


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New NIR Method for Organic Milk

This study aimed to evaluate portable near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) in combination with chemometrics to distinguish organic milk from other types of milk, and compare its performance with benchtop NIRS and fatty acid profiling by gas chromatography. The sample set included 37 organic retail milks and 50 non-organic retail milks (of which 36 conventional and 14 green ‘pasture’ milks). Partial least squares discriminant analysis was performed to build classification models and kernel density estimation (KDE) functions were calculated to generate non-parametric distributions for samples’ class probabilities. These distributions showed that portable NIRS was successful to distinguish organic milks from conventional milks, and so were benchtop NIRS and fatty acid profiling procedures. 

However, it was less successful when ‘pasture’ milks were considered too, since their patterns occasionally resembled those of the organic milk group. Fatty acid profiling was capable of distinguishing organic milks from both non-organic milks, even including the ‘pasture’ milks. This comparative study revealed that the classification performance of the portable NIRS for this application was similar to that of the benchtop NIRS.


                 Read the abstract at: NIR Method for Organic Milk

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In this article, untargeted methods capable determining the authenticity of foods are reviewed. The article also reviews and discusses a more specific focus on methods for detecting fish adulteration/substitution and involving sensory, physicochemical, DNA-based, chromatographic and spectroscopic measurements, combined with chemometric tools.
                      Read the full review at: untargeted methods for fish

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The European Court of Auditors (ECA),  which is the EU's independent external auditor, is conducting an audit of organic-food checks in the EU. The auditors will examine the control system governing the production, processing, distribution and import of organic products. They will seek to assess whether consumers can now have greater confidence that products are truly organic than they could at the time of the ECA’s last audit of the sector in 2012. 

Retail sales in the EU organic market grew by 54% between 2010 and 2015. The total area under organic farming in the EU increased by 21% over the same period. Imports of organic produce grew by 32% between 2012 and 2015. Although the price of organic products is higher than that of conventionally produced products, the market struggles to meet demand and the premium that consumers are willing to pay has the potential to encourage fraudulent organic sales. The ECA has also published a background paper on the organic food supply. 

Under the Common Agricultural Policy, certified organic farmers receive a “greening” payment. Organic farmers can also receive support from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development for both conversion to and maintenance of organic farming practices. This Fund’s total contribution to organic-farming payments for 2014–2020 amounts to €6.5 billion.

The audit report is due to be published in early 2019. It will form part of a series of ECA reports on various aspects of the food chain that includes Food Waste, Animal Welfare (underway) and Food Safety (underway).

                Read the ECA's Press Release at: Organic Supply Audit

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Indian researchers have developed a protocol based on PCR-RFLP (restriction fragment length polymorphism) by treating a 515 bp fragment in the highly polymorphic mitochondrial D-loop region with a single enzyme Tsp5091 to give fragment fingerprints to identify 9 species of snapper. Individual species could be differentiated by 3–5 major bands. Very closely related species like Lfulvus and Lfulviflamma gave similar patterns due to high (94%) identity, while the other seven species were clearly differentiated. The method worked with frozen, cooked and fried fish, and was tested on samples of snapper purchased in a local market.              Read the abstract at: snapper identification                               

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This report gives the outcomes of a voluntary coordinated survey in 25 Member States plus Norway and Switzerland in which the MSs' food control authorities were asked to search the Internet for websites, which offer in their respective official language(s) four novel food products for sale to the consumers in their country. The four products, all of which are not authorised in the EU, were: 

  • Agmatine (4-aminobutyl) guanidine sulfate
  • Acacia rigidula
  • Epimedium grandiflorum and
  • Hoodia gordoni

The authorities were also requested to check websites, which offer food supplements with misleading statements contrary to the rules on fair information practices, and more specifically, to search for offers of food supplements with information that attributes to them the property of preventing, treating or curing bone and joint diseases or refer to such properties with diseaserelated expressions, pictures or symbols. 

The authorities checked nearly 1100 websites and found 428 offers of unauthorised novel foods and 351 food supplements with medicinal claims making a total of 779 offers for sale of products, which were clearly non-compliant with EU legislation. The report also indicates what follow-up action was taken by the food authorities in terms of closing the respective offers, notifying RASFF etc. 

Read the report at: on-line supplements

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A combined project team from Germany, Norway and Ireland have developed a new method based on the δ13C of amino acids (AA) extracted from wild caught, conventionally and organically farmed salmon. This method enables authentication even when there has been rapid developement of alternative feed ingredients such as macroalgae and insects. The team developed a new profiling tool based on amino acid δ13C fingerprints. which was able to discriminate with high-accuracy among wild-caught, organically, and conventionally farmed salmon. The δ13C fingerprints of essential amino acids appear particularly well suited for tracing protein sources, and for example, the substitution of fishmeal with macroalgae was detected at 5% difference level. The non-essential amino acids are useful for tracing lipid origins (terrestrial vs. aquatic).


Read the abstract at: Wild v farmed salmon

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Researchers at Rutgers University, NJ, have developed a rapid method using a portable FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared) Spectrometer to distinguish between synthesised Omega-3 ethyl esters and natural unprocessed fish oil. Using a commercial liquid transmission accessory, small samples of fish oil at three thicknesses (25,50 and 100 microns) permit the differentiation by focussing on different vibrational bands. A survey of fish oil capsules sold on the US market found about 80% of the products tested that are marketed as fish oil, contain oil that has been chemically altered from natural fish oil.

Read the full article at: fish oil authenticity

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The Australian company - Food Fraud Advisors are offering an on-line course - "Food Fraud Requirements of BRC, SQF, FSSC and other Food Safety Standards". The course is aimed at food auditors on how to meet the food fraud prevention requirements of major food safety standards. It is designed to cover all the main global food safety accreditation schemes.

More details and purchase of course at on-line food fraud course

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Chinese researchers have developed an integrated approach combining HPLC/DAD, GC/MS, near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy, and chemometrics  to geographically discriminate saffron samples from Iran and China. Using a dataset based on 98 samples of saffron, the saffron compounds picrocrocin and two types of crocins were found to be the discriminating markers, and the Chinese samples had higher contents of safranal and picrocrocin but lower cis-crocin 3Gg, kaempferol-3-O-sophoroside and isophorone. 

 Furthermore, an NIR method was successfully established to rapidly distinguish the Chinese and Iranian samples. The relationship between an ISO standard and the contents of the chemical indices was also studied. The results indicated that the ISO standard should be revised, especially for analysing safranal.

Read the abstract here

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Ensuring Food Supply Chain Integrity

This review paper gives the some of the outcomes of two EU FP7 Projects - EDEN and SNIFFER on the development of food defence analyses in the food chain. Food defence guidelines have been developed based on a parallel system to food safety HACCP analysis which include systems such as vulnerability analysis and critical control points (VACCP), and threat assessment critical control points (TACCP). Once mapping of the gaps and needs had been carried out, a secondary aim of the food defence work in the EDEN project was to test new technologies both targeted and untargeted that could be used for food defence purposes. The SNIFFER project (Sensory devices network for food supply chain security) addressed problems related to the detection of biological and chemical agents in the food supply chain, by looking at commercially available sensors in a sensor network that could be deployed at vulnerable points in the food supply chain. 

Food defence practices can help prevent deliberate contamination, be it motivated by economic, revenge or ideological reasons. Food defence should therefore be an integral part of food supply chain integrity and not just an afterthought in the wake of an incident. The detection tools investigated by EDEN and SNIFFER have potential, but a wider range of contaminants and food matrices needs to be investigated before these tools could be broadly adopted.


Read the full paper at: Food Defence Analysis

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The FDA is responsible for food safety enforcement of all food production except any product with a meat or poultry ingredient. This often leads to duplication of inspection by the two agencies for many producers manufacturing a range of foods. A new formal agreement between the FDA and USDA will lead to better coordination and collaboration between the two agencies in food safety inspections, the update of biotechnology regulations and the implementation of new preventative safety inspections on produce farms.


Read the full article at: USDA FDA Coordination

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Mānuka honey is the monofloral product of Leptospermum scoparium, a New Zealand native plant, said to possess ‘non-peroxide anti-bacterial activity’ , making it expensive and greatly sought-after world-wide. In this review, methods for the determination of the authenticity of samples of mānuka honey are examined. Suggestions are made as to how to authenticate, or otherwise, the label claims for a given sample of mānuka honey.

Read the full review at: Review of Manuka Honey Authenticity

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French researchers have developed a DNA-based authentication method that overcomes limitations of metabolic profiling of Robusta and Arabica coffees. The identification of Arabica and Robusta coffee species, as well as the quantification of their relative proportion in blends were performed by High Resolution Melting (HRM) analysis on green and roasted coffee products. Robusta adulteration as low as 1% in Arabica products can be detected.

   Read the abstract at: DNA Coffee Method


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