Mark Woolfe's Posts (381)

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.

 Read the article here

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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.

 Read the abstract here

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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.

 Read the abstract here

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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.

Read the article here

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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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The three farmers ran a certified organic farm in Overton, Nebraska, but also farmed other non-certified fields in the area. Maize and soyabeans produced from these fields were sold as organic, at much higher prices to customers both directly and via an as-yet unnamed business. They are thought to have made $11 million over 7 years by defrauding their customers.

Earlier this year, the US Department of Agriculture raised concerns about organic produce imports (see News blog 13 March 2018), and published a preliminary list of businesses allegedly using fraudulent certificates to claim their products are organic. It has since extended that list to more than 100, and of these around 20 were US-based businesses. To try to address the problem, a three-month pilot was launched in the US to prevent and detect fraud in the country’s organic food chain. The pilot will focus on identifying and assessing specific weaknesses or vulnerabilities in the supply chain, identifying and taking measures to reduce those vulnerabilities, establishing a monitoring programme for fraud prevention measures, and developing a complaint system to be used when fraud is suspected or detected.

   Read the article

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The BBC have obtained the results of meat testing carried out in 2017 by local authorities in Scotland in restaurants, supermarkets and manufacturers from Food Standards Scotland (FSS). In total 631 samples were tested and 48 samples (less than 8%) were found to contain DNA of other species not labelled or described on the product. Many of these were considered as cross contamination rather than substitution. However, there were some notable exceptions: such as restaurants serving lamb dishes which were beef, and a restaurant serving beef in oyster sause which was pork. The results differed from those reported by FSA (see 12 September News), which were more targeted on high risk businesses.

  Read the article here

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Characterisation of the lipid component of seafood products based on chromatography-mass spectrometry techniques has been reported as a promising approach to differentiate farmed from wild-type products. In this study, Italian researchers used a fast method based on Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART) coupled to High Resolution Mass Spectrometry (HRMS) based on a single stage Orbitrap mass analyser, integrated by Principal Component Analysis (PCA), to discriminate wild-type from farmed salmon of Salmo salar species. Obtaining the 30 most intense signals (all referred to fatty acids, FA) detected in negative ion DART-HRMS spectra of the lipid extracts of salmon fillets [26 wild-type from Canada, 74 farmed from Canada (25), Norway (25) and Chile (24)] were considered as the variables for PCA. In agreement with other studies, three saturated (14:0, 16:0 and 18:0) FA, along with unsaturated ones having 20 or 22 carbon atoms, were found as the main discriminating variables for wild-type salmons, whereas FA with compositions 18:1, 18:2, 18:3 and several oxidised forms arising from them were found to have a significantly higher incidence in farmed salmon. The methodology was tested against 6 samples of farmed Norwegian salmon, which were all correctly classified.

  Read the abstract here

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As part of the EU Project Authent-Net, the Norwegian Food Research Agency (Nofima)  and Belgium's Centre Wallon de Recherches Agronomique (CRA-W) have developed a database to help prevent another major food fraud incident. The database FARNHub (Food Authenticity Research Network Hub) has a web searcher  for any news on food authenticity or fraud from around the world. The database contains information on research publications, regulations, funders of food authenticity research, and on-line databases of incidents. Information on reasearch projects and methods will be available through links to the FoodIntegrity  Knowledge Base (KB) when it is transferred to JRC Geel.

 Read the article here

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 In this study, more than 400 pesticides were screened in a representative set of 42 genuine and 34 adulterated dried oregano samples collected from various locations across Europe. The results obtained by advanced mass spectrometry-based methods, showed, that some pesticide residues could be detected in virtually all tested samples, nevertheless, on average, higher contamination was found in the adulterated oregano samples. Increased incidence of insecticides such as cyfluthrin, permethrin and cyhalothrin was typical for these samples, moreover, pyriproxyfen was detected exclusively in adulterated samples. As pyriproxyfen was absent in genuine oregano, it could be used as a screen for adulterated oregano. 

    Read the abstract here

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Honey is the third most adulterated food globally. This study by Australian researchers examined 100 honey samples from Australia (mainland and Tasmania) along with 18 other countries covering Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Oceania. Carbon isotopic analyses of honey and protein showed that 27% of commercial honey samples tested were of questionable authenticity. The remaining 69 authentic samples were subject to trace element analysis for geographic determination, and were analysed chemometrically. The trace elements Sr, P, Mn and K were the most useful ones to differentiate honey according to its geographic origin. The findings show the common and prevalent issues of honey authenticity and the mislabelling of its geographic origin can be identified using a combination of stable carbon isotopes and trace element concentrations.

 Read the full open access paper

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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.

  Read the abstract here

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