Mark Woolfe's Posts (370)

Having conducted a poll of local authorities (LAs) into the UK monitoring of food standards across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Food Standards Agency found the system is hampered by inadequate resources, and an out-of-date and inflexible approach to regulation. The FSA's Board agreed with the Chair Heather Hancock, that a comprehensive redesign was required, which would provide better assurance, more agility, and help local authorities to obtain evidence that they meet their statutory obligations. The FSA is already reviewing the future of food standards enforcement and how better LA's can prioritise their work.

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Selvarani Elahi the Network's Project Officer gave a presentation about the Network at the 24th meeting of the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection Certification Systems (CCFICS) in Brisbane. The presentation discussed the success of the Network and its ambition to go global in the future. It was well received, and there was interest in the model constructed for the UK and EU, and how this could be extended to other countries or regions. Read the article here

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Italian police raided the premises of two Prosecco producers in Treviso Province and found sacks with 2 tonnes of sugar. The producrs were adding the sugar (chaptilisation) to increase the alcohol content during primary fermentation, which is against the law. Although it is legal to add a small amount of sugar to aid the secondary fermentation (bubble formation). It was estimated that a third of the two companies production had been chaptilised illegally. However, all the Prosecco production was seized because the producers had exceeded their production quotas.

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Researchers have a developed a multiplex PCR (polymerase chain reaction) assay to identify beef, pork, horse and poultry (chicken, turkey) and determine these species quantitatively in meat products. The qualitative assay uses a mitochondrial cytochrome b gene marker. The quantitative assay uses singlecopy markers from chromosomal genes (cyclic-GMP-phosphodiesterase gene for cattle, beta-actin gene for pig, interleukin-2 gene for chicken), and the normaliser is from the myostatin gene for mammals and poultry. The reliability of both methods was confirmed by analysing of mixed samples prepared with or without heat treatment. The assay was tested with 14 meat products from the Czech retail market with two having undeclared species and another 4 products giving an incorrect quantitative declaration. 

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IAEA have put a call for proposals on its website on a new 5 year project - ‘Implementation of Nuclear Techniques for Authentication of Foods with High-Value Labelling Claims’ (D52042). Examples of high value foods include vanilla from Madagascar, coffee from Colombia, Taliouine saffron from Morocco, and Darjeeling tea from India. Proposals need to be submitted by the end of February, and the kick-off Coordination Meeting is scheduled for 13-17 May 2019 at the United Nations Office in Vienna. If you would like further information not contained in the link above, please contact Dr Simon Kelly (S.Kelly@iaea.org).

 

 

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Fifty-five samples of vintage Scotch whisky, selected at random from auctions, private collections and retailers, were sent by the whisky broker - Rare Whisky 101 to the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC) in East Kilbride for carbon dating testing of the alcohol, cork and labels. Twenty-one out of 55 bottles of rare Scotch were deemed to be outright fakes or whiskies not distilled in the year declared. The value of these 21 samples, if genuine vintage whisky, could be worth around £635,000. Rare Whisky 101 have stated that there is a serious issue, and estimated that about £41m worth of rare whisky, which is currently circulating in the secondary market - and present in existing collections - is fake. 

 Read the BBC News article and also watch the short video

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Conventional nucleic acid amplification methods are reliable, but the requirement of complex equipment, skilled technicians and long operation time limit their on-site use. Here, a simple denaturation bubble-mediated strand exchange amplification method (SEA) requiring only a pair of primers and one polymerase was first reported for identifying adulteration of pork source by targeting the species-specific mitochondrial DNA sequence. The SEA method could detect 1% pork total DNA by both colorimetric and fluorescence determination. The whole detection process could be finished within 1 hour by coupling with fast tissue DNA extraction method, only requiring a simple heating block, and hence making it suitable for on-site meat species identification. 

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As the European Union has committed to only accept authenticated “sustainably sourced” palm oils, it is important to ensure that such imported oils are really from the declared source, preferably via proven analytical methods. This full review looks at the legal requirements for the traceability and authentication of palm oil, and assesses some new and emerging chemically-based technologies that should contribute to improving the monitoring of palm oil and other vegetable oil supply chains in Europe and elsewhere. 

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Vietnam is currently flooded with China-grown agricultural products, such as carrots, potatoes and mandarins, misdescribed as farm produce originating in two Vietnamese Provinces - Da Lat City, Tien Giang Province and Thailand. Vietnam has no regulations on origin traceability and identification of home grown produce. 

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has pointed out three major reasons for the alleged fraud, with the first being that Vietnam’s regulations fail to instruct traders to stick labels on packages of farm produce, which are sold directly to customers. The second loophole is related to origin traceability, with the Ministry noting that the regulation on this has yet to be applied effectively and widely to farm produce. In addition, the Government’s Decree 15/2018 guiding the application of some articles of the law on food safety and hygiene includes a regulation only tracing origins of unsafe products and those requested by agencies, if necessary. The third loophole determined by the Ministry relates to regulations on the identification of Vietnamese products. In fact, Vietnam has yet to issue criteria for how a product is recognised as being Vietnamese. Although the country has regulations on identifying "Made-in-Vietnam" products, these regulations are applied only to exports and not to items sold in the domestic market. The Ministry has proposed two solutions: a) minimising unregulated trade and fostering formal trade, and b) encouraging manufacturers to produce high-quality and safe products with their origin printed on packages.

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The European Consumer Organisation Foodwatch has issued a 50+ page report giving an in-depth analysis of the food law of the European Union – and reveals fundamental weaknesses. It criticises traceability requirements as not being strong enough or implemented along the whole food chain. It demands that EU food law clearly stipulate that authorities must inform the public quickly and comprehensively in the event of infringements. This must include the names of manufacturers and products, both in cases where there is a risk to health and in cases of fraud. Foodwatch also demands that consumer associations be given the right to sue authorities that fail to fulfil their obligations under EU law. It also states that the European Commission's proposal for a reform of European food law is completely inadequate.

 Read Foodwatch's Press Release and the full report.

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In this review by Spanish researchers, an updated, comprehensive and balanced overview of the recent studies (2015-2018) that have applied omics-based technologies for the authentication of food is given. The omics-based molecular tools discussed in the review include genomics, proteomics and metabolomics-based methods.

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Two US companies will pay $7 million after admitting that they omitted poultry meal from pet foods or replaced it with feather and bone meals. 

Wilbur-Ellis Co., which makes ingredients used in the pet food industry, will pay about $4.5 million in restitution and $1 million in criminal forfeitures, according to an 11 October announcement from the Department of Justice. The company pleaded guilty in April to introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. Texan company Wilbur-Ellis replaced chicken and turkey meal with cheaper substitutes, such as feather meal and feed-grade chicken bone by-product meal. They also omitted ingredients, including the turkey meal in a product labelled as turkey meal.

Diversified Ingredients Inc., a commodities broker in pet food industries, will pay $1.5 million in restitution and $75,000 in criminal forfeiture. That company's leaders pleaded guilty in July to introducing adulterated and misbranded foods. Mr Doyle, an attorney for Diversified Ingredients, said his clients learned about the fraud from the Wilbur-Ellis plant during a lawsuit filed in 2014, when Nestle Purina PetCare Co. had accused Blue Buffalo Co. Ltd. of making false claims about Blue Buffalo's pet food ingredients. He said Diversified Ingredients had no intent to defraud customers, and had relied on their customers to perform quality assurance testing, and Diversified Ingredients since has introduced more quality assurance activities including audits of suppliers.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission(AACC) has concluded its investigation into the honey company Capilano, and declared that the testing method used which claimed that the company's honey had been adulterated is not yet reliable to make such a claim. Tests carried out in Germany by Quality Services International found that half the samples collected from supermarkets had been adulterated. The tests claimed that Capilano's Allowrie honey, labelled as "pure" and "100% honey" were adulterated with sugar syrup. Capilano denied there are such issues with its honey and criticised the methodology behind the tests. This criticism has now been upheld by the ACCC, which said that the ACCC is advised that NMR testing is not yet reliable enough to determine whether honey is adulterated, and therefore should not be used as a basis to support legal action. This is consistent with the approach of regulators in the UK, US and the EU. Also, the ACCC's investigation found that Capilano had taken steps to provide assurance, and did not uncover any other evidence that supported the allegation Capilano's Allowrie honey was adulterated with sugar syrup.

 Read the article here, and the original claim of adulterated honey 

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Two new final reports and their related SOPs of projects FA0106 and FA0122 have been put on the website. FA0106 evaluates an ELISA method to determine offal (heart, liver, kidney and lung) in meat products. FA0122 validates the assay based on Western blot to determine the presence of added bovine or porcine blood serum to meat products. The final report also gives the results of a survey carried out on 80 retail and 20 catering meat products to determine whether offal or blood serum has been added. The SOPs from the two projects can either be accessed from Defra links or under the Methods (SOPs) tab.

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German researchers have developed a method for the non-targeted detection of 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, and optimised to provide a sensitivity greater than 80% by external validation. These 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 data preprocessing chemometric methods, a classification specificity greater than 80% was achieved for all adulterants.

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Speciation of Gelatine in Sweets Using FTIR-ATR

Gelatine is widely used in the manufacture of "gummy" sweets, and both bovine and porcine gelatine is used. Turkish researchers have used FTIR-ATR (Fourier Transform Infra Red - Attenuated Total Reflectance) spectroscopy to determine whether bovine or porcine gelatine has been used in the sweets. The spectral region between 1734 and 1528 cm-1 was selected for principal component analysis. The potential of FTIR spectroscopy for determination of bovine and porcine source in gummy sweets was examined and validated by a real-time PCR method. Twenty commercial samples were tested by the FTIR-ATR method and the result checked by RT-PCR. Gummy sweets were classified and discriminated in relation to the bovine or porcine source of gelatine with 100% success without any sample preparation using FTIR-ATR technique.

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According to figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request from ITV Tonight, the Food Standards Agency has given no money at all in the past year to Local Authorities for food surveillance tests. The FSA’s pot of money for food sampling is no longer available to cash strapped local authorities - some of which, according to evidence uncovered by the ITV Tonight team, have done no food standards food sampling and or hygiene sampling at all in the last year. It also reports that since 2010 the number of Trading Standards Officers (inspectors) has halved.

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Researchers from ITV recently visited 10 random takeaway shops in Greater Manchester. They ordered ham and pineapple pizzas and subsequent tests on the ingredients found that in 9 out of the 10 pizzas contained no pork. Instead the outlets had used thinly sliced processed turkey ham. Manchester City Council, which polices food businesses, has agreed to take action against those found to have misdescribed food to the public.

 Read the article here

 

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The Olive Oil Marketing Regulation requires that olive oils of mixed origin have to be designated as either EU and/or non-EU origin. In this study 2H/1H, 13C/12C and 18O/16O ratios were analysed in bulk olive oils using  isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) as well as 13C/12C and 2H/1H in the four main fatty acids (linoleic, oleic, palmitic and stearic acids) using IRMS coupled with GC (gas chromatography). The isotopic composition of olive oils was successfully used to distinguish samples originating in the two areas. When bulk data were combined with fatty acid isotopic data the differentiation power of the method was improved. The improvement is due to the specific isotopic fingerprint of the individual countries making up the EU and non-EU samples. 

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The aim of this project was to evaluate the applicability of selected modern molecular biology methods to reliably detect and quantify meat species around the 1% (w/w) level for enforcement action with a focus on processed meat products. Three techniques were evaluated, which had quantitative potential for trace ingredient detection: real-time PCR (qPCR), droplet digital PCR (ddPCR), and a label-free mass-spectrometry (MS) approach.

Results of the research indicated that both qPCR and ddPCR demonstrated good qualitative and quantitative analytical performance at the 1% (w/w) adulteration level for enforcement action (with an associated 3-27% coefficient of variation). Across all adulterant levels investigated, ddPCR generally showed tighter precision estimates, particularly at the 0.1% (w/w) levels and with the highly processed canned meat sample. The label-free MS technique demonstrated clear qualitative capability, but did not demonstrate comparable accuracy for quantitative determinations.  

  Read the full FA0157 report.

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