Mark Woolfe's Posts (304)

India is the largest producer of milk globally, producing 155 million tonnes/year worth nearly US$ 70billion. However, it has been reported that  roughly 68% of all milk and milk products have been found to be in violation of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India's (FSSAI) standards – despite the regulator's recent proposal of a penalty of around US$14,000, or a maximum of lifetime imprisonment for intentionally adding adulterants to food products. Adulterants found to be added in milk include white paint, refined oil, caustic soda, formalin, glucose, urea, salt, liquid detergent, boric acid, sodium bicarbonate, and hydrogen peroxide. Many of these pose a health risk to Indian consumers. The FSSAI has even produced a simple kit for consumers to test milk themselves for adulteration. The main problem being that only 66% of milk is handled in the main supply market and the rest is dealt with privately. 

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A Novel Approach for Scotch Whisky Authentication

Scotch whisky, a popular high value spirit drink, is vulnerable to fraud. In this study, a non-targeted screening (metabolomics fingerprinting) of volatile and semi-volatile substances was used. After pre-concentration, gas chromatography (GC) coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (Q-TOF mass analyser) was employed. Unsupervised principle component analysis (PCA) and supervised partial least squares discriminant analysis (PLS–DA) were used for evaluation of data obtained by analysis of a unique set of 171 authentic whisky samples. A very good separation of malt whiskies according to the type of cask in which they were matured (bourbon versus bourbon and wine) was achieved, and significant ´markers´ for bourbon and wine cask maturation, such as N-(3-methylbutyl) acetamide and 5-oxooxolane-2-carboxylic acid, were identified. This unique sample set was used to construct a statistical model for distinguishing malt and blended whiskies. In the final phase, 20 fake samples were analysed, and the data processed in the same way. Some differences could be observed in the (semi)volatile profiles of authentic and fake samples. Employing the statistical model developed by PLS-DA for this purpose, marker compounds that positively distinguish fake samples were identified.

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Robusta coffee is usually cheaper than arabica coffee. Mixtures of the two can be produced and labelled correctly for consumer taste. However, 100% arabica coffees may be mixed with robusta coffee to reduce costs. Brazilian researchers have developed primers which specifically amplify arabica coffee but not robusta in blends of roasted and ground coffee. The percentages of arabica coffee  in blends can be determined using real-time PCR.

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The BBC made a Freedom of Information (FoI) to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for the results of meat product testing by local authorities in 2017. This revealed that out of 665 results from 487 businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland collected by the FSA, 145 were partly or wholly made up of unspecified meat. Of these 145 samples,73 came from retailers - including three supermarkets, and a further 50 came from restaurants, while 22 originated from manufacturing or food processing plants. The most commonly mislabelled product was mince, followed by sausages, kebabs and restaurant curries, and lamb products were the most commonly found to contain traces of other animals DNA.  

The FSA has responded by stressing that the results are not representative of the food industry. Local authorities taking the samples, were targeting the high risk businesses. 

Read the BBC report and the FSA's response

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Two Australian media companies instructed a law firm to investigate the Australian honey industry. Twenty eight samples were collected from the Australian retail market and sent to two European laboratories for analysis by both NMR and carbon isotope analysis. The results indicated that 12 out of the 28 samples were not pure honey.

The companies involved with the non-compliant samples have challenged the results indicating that the honey samples were blends of Australian honey with other countries' honey (mainly China), which the tests especially NMR might not recognise as pure honey. However, the Australian official test is based on carbon isotopic measurement, which would only detect adulteration with C4 sugars such as cane sugar or sugars derived from maize starch. NMR is able to detect adulteration from C3 sugars such as beet sugar or sugars derived from rice starch. The European laboratory QSI undertaking the  analyses has indicated that adulteration is becoming more sophisticated where a tailored blend of C3 sugars are being added honey to even avoid detection by NMR.

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Italian researchers have used carbon isotope ratio (δ13C) of caffeine in green and in the corresponding roasted coffee, evaluated with a omprehensive approach using as a second parameter, the δ13C value of the whole volatile fraction of the roasted coffee samples. The method is based on evaluating the effect of roasting on caffeine by using a gas chromatograph connected directly to the carbon isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC-C-IRMS). The results are then evaluated based on a novel comprehensive isotopic data evaluation (CIDE) model demonstrating that regardless the effect of roasting and the different geographic origin, the coffee bean samples analysed can be discriminated based on their botanical origin and in particular whether they are arabica or robusta coffee.

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Located in China's Heilongjiang province, Wuchang is known for its high quality Wuchang rice. However, over the past few years, there have been reports that packages delivered from the region were sometimes mixed with low grade rice. Ant Financial, an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba, has announced a partnership with the municipal government of Wuchang to deploy a consortium blockchain for tracking the entire production process of locally grown rice in the province in an attempt to prevent counterfeit rice products entering the market. One of the  benefits of the introduced blockchain technology is that for the first time Wuchang rice has changed its long-distance distribution method for the whole country, shortening the original delivery time of 3-7 days to less than 2 days. 

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Oceana Canada has  conducted a study in 2017 and 2018  and collected 382 samples of snapper, sea bass, sole and other fish that other studies indicate are often substituted. The samples came from 177 retailers and restaurants in five Canadian cities, and were sent to the University of Guelph for DNA barcoding. The study found that 44% of the samples were mislabelled. In particular it found cheaper haddock and pollock substituted for cod; farmed salmon served up as wild salmon; and escolar (a fish banned in many countries because of its health risks) masquerading as butterfish or white tuna. In addition, every single sample of so-called “red snapper” tested was actually another species.

Read Oceana's Report here

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There is a increasing use of High Resolution Mass Spectrometry non-targeted approaches to examine the authenticity of food. The diversity in experimental design/data handling in scientific literature makes evaluation of method performance challenging. Developing an appropriate model validation is therefore a crucial step to assess reliability for quantitative or confirmatory purposes. This review assesses the state of the art and proposes a harmonised workflow for all such applications. Additionally, global considerations on the applicability of these methods for legal challenges are provided.

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Indian researchers have concluded that in order to be able to authenticate saffron and check its purity, no single test is appropriate. This study has  proposed cross validation using 3 tests based on microscopy, DNA barcoding and ISO3632 standards. The combined use of these three tests is novel and more effective compare to any single test. 36 commercial saffron samples were tesed using the multiple test approach and found that over 45% of samples tested were questionable, and first grade saffron is rare on the Indian market.

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New cereal based foods, particularly pasta, bread and biscuits, made with mixed flours containing ancient wheat species and other cereals, have become popular in recent years. This calls for analytical methods able to determine the authenticity of these products. Discrimination among closely related plant species, particularly congeneric ones like Triticum spp, remains a challenging task. Italian researchers have utilised and optimised a relatively new DNA fingerprinting method based on tubulin-based polymorphism (TBP) and a new assay, TBP light, for the authentication of different wheat and farro species and other cereals, and tested these on a set of commercial foods. The assay has a sensitivity of 0.5–1% w/w in binary mixtures of durum wheat in einkorn or emmer flour and was able to authenticate the composition of test food sample and to detect possible adulteration.                                     

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Italian researchers have made a preliminary study to use non-targeted metabolomic profiles to distinguish between PDO and non-PDO Grana Padano cheeses. Using ultra-high-pressure liquid chromatography coupled to quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometer (UHPLC/QTOF-MS) followed by chemometrics, a range of chemical metabolites - lipids (fatty acids and their derivatives, phospholipids and monoacylglycerols), amino acids and oligopeptides, together with plant-derived compounds gave the highest discimination potential between the two groups of cheeses. It is postulated that the PDO production specification rules drive the biochemical processes involved in cheese making and ripening process in a distinct manner, thus leaving a defined chemical signature on the final product.

      Read the abstract here

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Aroma properties of spices are related to their volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can provide distinct analytical signatures. Dutch researchers have examined the similarity and diversity of VOC profiles of six common spices (black/white pepper, chili paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg and saffron). The key volatiles were identified by PTR-TOFMS (Proton Transfer Reaction - Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry). Twelve samples per spice were subjected to PTR-Quadrupole MS (PTR-QMS) and Principal Component Analysis to compare the groups and examine diversity. With PTR-TOFMS, 101 volatile compounds were identified across all samples by their mass and comparing them with literature data Some spices comprised key character aroma compounds, e.g. cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon. Saffron and chili paprika showed distinct volatile profiles. Overlap in terpenic compounds is shown for pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. The PTR-QMS in combination with variables selection resulted in distinct PCA patterns for each spice, which could be valuable for future authenticity studies.

 

     Read the abstract here

 

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In 2016/7, the DGCCRF( France's anti-fraud Directorate) conducted a large-scale survey to verify the labelling and declaration of the origin of imported wines, particularly from Spain. These controls were carried out across France at producers, importers, traders and distributors premises. A total of 179 establishments were audited in 2016 and 564 in 2017, specifically on the subject of foreign wines. 22% of the establishments visited in 2016 and 15% of the establishments visited in 2017 had labelling non-conformities including deceptive or false information and incorrect origin. While most wines were correctly labelled, there were several cases investigated where 2 - 3.4 million litres of wine (equivalent to 4.6 million bottles) of Spanish wine was sold in bulk labelled as French.

    Read the DGCCRF summary (in French) and the BBC article here

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Product DNA is a system of electronically recording up to 150 attributes about a product, which are verified by a third party, and entered into a "catalogue" so it can be checked at any point in the supply chain and even incorporated into retailers own data systems, as well as accessed by consumers. Thus it can assure product traceability along the entire supply chain, and having an agreed set of attributes allows much easier data sharing between manufacturers and retailers.

Retailers Tesco and Ocado have already signed up to this service, and Unilever.and  Nestlé are the latest companies to do so.

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The European Parliament have approved a report recommending that manufacturers of branded products can add a logo to inform consumer that the product has the same composition and quality across all of the EU. This is in response to concerns that some branded products are different in quality in some Eastern European MSs to the rest of the EU. The Food and Drink Europe (representing food manufacturers) have welcomed the report, but noted that there can be legitimate reasons for differences in branded products across MSs based on consumer preferences, sourcing of local ingredients and reformulation requirements.

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Russian researchers have published a method based on sugar profiles to determine wine authenticity. The glucose-fructose Iindex (GFI) and disaccharide content can be used as marker for wine from different grape varieties. The method can detect when extra grape must has been added before fermentation, as well as wines from arrested fermentation. For sweet wines the glycerol content has to be measured as well. 

  Read the full paper here

 

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Russian researchers have published a paper on their development of proteomic and peptide identification to identify pork, beef , horse and poultry in meat produced after slaughter. The methodology development can identify peptides which occur in specific tissues or fluids associated with meat species. The researchers are planning the next stage of using the peptide information of the raw materials to identify species in meat products.

  Read the full paper here

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Spain’s National Police and Civil Guard have seized hundreds of tons of expired jamón (ham) and other meat products that were about to be placed back in the market, and in some cases, they were already back on sale.In three separate raids conducted over the course of a few weeks, officers found that individuals and companies were apparently tampering with seals and labels to extend the shelf life of expired food products. 

     Read the article here

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