Selvarani Elahi's Posts (84)

3549856866?profile=RESIZE_710xRachel Gullaksen, Sean Daly and Malcolm Burns (from left to right) looking at multispectral imaging applications for food authenticity

The Food Standards Agency’s National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) aims to help protect businesses and consumers from fraudulent supply chains through building relationships with industry, delivering crime prevention initiatives and conducting thorough, proportionate investigations where necessary. This is to support the Food Standard Agency to deliver its overarching strategy that “food is safe and is what it says it is”.

Following an increase to its budget, the NFCU has seen significant extension of the unit’s capabilities and remit in terms of its investigation and crime disruption capabilities and the prevention of food crime. As part of its outreach programme and as a follow-up to a meeting between Darren Davies, Head of the NFCU and the Government Chemist, Julian Braybrook and Selvarani Elahi in May 2019, colleagues from the NFCU visited LGC.

Selvarani Elahi gave a presentation on the Food Authenticity Network, highlighting the benefits of closer collaboration between this growing global network and the NFCU, both of which were created by the UK government to address the recommendations of the Elliott Review.

NFCU colleagues were taken on a tour of LGC’s National Measurement Laboratories where LGC staff demonstrated research on a range of technologies from point-of-use screening to confirmatory methods capable of combating food crime or food fraud .

 

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Food Authenticity Newsletter: Issue 10

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The Food Authenticity Network turned four in July 2019 and looking back to when it was first established on 14 July 2015, we could not have imagined that in four short years and with relatively modest funding, we could have grown to a membership of over 1,130* from 58 countries / territories and a Twitter following of over 1,548. The website has also achieved a Google PageRank score of number 1 for a search on the term ‘food authenticity’ and the equivalent on Twitter.

In case you missed it, Issue 10 of the Food Authenticity Network Newsletter was published in July and contains news from the Network, three interesting articles and a further Centre of Expertise profile:
•News from CEN on Food Authenticity
•Increased activities of the Food Standard Agency’s National Food Crime Unit.
•Application of Artificial Intelligence and smart phone to authenticate food in situ.
•Achievements of the EU Project FoodIntegrity project.
•Centre of Expertise profile from Minerva Scientific

Download your copy here.

*Google Analytics shows that the website is actually being accessed by ~8,000 unique users annually.

 

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3435350351?profile=RESIZE_710xThe EU FoodIntegrity project has published a number of Scientific Opinions on difficult stakeholder derived issues that concern food fraud. The topics were all identified by stakeholders and are intended as documents that describe best practices. The published Scientific Opinions can be found here under the 'Scientific Opinions' tab.

The latest Scientific Opinion published is on "Use of NMR applications to tackle future food fraud issues". The SO discusses how both targeted (allows the identification of specific markers of identity/adulteration for a given foodstuff) and untargeted (the chemical profile of the whole foodstuff is used to create a unique fingerprint as a reference for suspect samples) NMR methodologies are applied in routine use for food fraud monitoring. The cost-effective approaches for routine application are discussed using examples of Food Screener™ and benchtop low-field instruments.

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The Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) co-hosted a meeting on the 18 July 2019 on the negative impact of illicit trade on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The special UN dialogue exposed where and how progress on the SDGs is inhibited by illicit trade in some of the world’s most important economic sectors.

"From smuggling, counterfeiting and tax evasion, to the illegal sale or possession of goods, services, humans and wildlife, illicit trade is compromising the attainment of all 17 of the UN SDGs," stated TRACIT Director-General Jeffrey Hardy. "It is crowding out legitimate economic activity, depriving governments of revenues for investment in vital public services, dislocating millions of legitimate jobs and causing irreversible damage to ecosystems and human lives."

 Read full article.

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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."

Read full story.

 

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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. 

Read 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.

Read the full report.

 

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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 Secretary@foodauthenticity.uk.

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

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The Canadian regulatory framework prohibits selling adulterated food or selling food in a false, misleading or deceptive manner. Although the number of prosecutions for food fraud cases in Canada has steadily decreased in the last decade, except for a spike in 2017, penalties are becoming more severe (i.e. 12-fold increase in fine amount between 2008 and 2018). The majority of cases are in violation with the Food and Drugs Act, Section 5(1), which prohibits “labelling, packaging, treating, processing, selling or advertising food in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression.” In the cases presented in this study, violators having been found guilty were fined between $25,000 and $1.5 million, but none were sentenced to imprisonment.

To improve control over food fraud incidents, the Canadian government should clearly define food fraud and include a definition and description of the different types of fraudulent activities. To support this, the Government of Canada should raise awareness about food fraud among members of the food industry, while requiring expanded testing of raw ingredients and final products for authenticity. A critical step is for the Canadian government to conduct a country-wide food fraud vulnerability assessment to identify the most problematic types of food fraud and then create a country-wide food fraud prevention strategy. Once the prevention strategy is in place, then the most efficient countermeasures and control systems can be considered. The holistic and all-encompassing food fraud prevention focus would be on a coordinated and optimized reduction of the entire fraud opportunity. The creation of government-industry-academia partnerships would also play an essential role in preventing and combating food fraud. It is possible that few – if any – additional government allocation will be required to put the plan in place and begin to make significant improvements.

Read full paper here.

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Food fraud a worldwide problem and many countries continue to commit considerable resource to combat the issue. With the food supply chain now truly global, there is acknowledgement that having agreed definitions for terms commonly associated with food authenticity and food fraud would be of great benefit.

The Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (Nofima), has led a European initiative with the objective of making communication regarding food fraud more precise. Together with food fraud experts (including from the Food Authenticity Network Team) from several European countries including the UK, a European standard has been created that defines many of the English terms and concepts used in connection with food fraud. The words are placed in a hierarchical system that makes it easier to understand how they relate to each other - see image.

The standardisation was coordinated as part of the EU-funded Authent-Net and FoodIntegrity projects. It was published in January 2019 by Standard Norway, and it is also being distributed by several other National Standardisation Bodies in Europe; currently Estonia, Netherlands, and the UK.

This standard represents an important first step in the global standardisation of these terms which will help facilitate trade, combat food fraud and better secure our food supply chains.

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IFST has re-written its “Food authenticity testing” Information Statement and split it into two parts:

Food authenticity testing part 1: The role of analysis, which now covers the role of analytical testing within the context of an overall supply chain assurance strategy.

Analytical testing is a valuable tool in the armoury to assure food authenticity but cannot be used to identify every type of food fraud.  It is only one part of an overall strategy to mitigate fraud risk.

Many modern tests are based upon comparing a pattern of measured values in the test sample with patterns from a database of authentic samples. Interpretation is highly dependent on the robustness of the database, and whether it includes all possible authentic variables and sample types. This information may not be released by the laboratory.  Interpretation of results is rarely clear-cut, and analytical results are often used to inform and target further investigation (such as unannounced audits or mass-balance checks) rather than for making a compliance decision.

This paper describes where testing can and cannot be used, and highlights generic issues relating to interpreting food authenticity testing results.

Food authenticity testing part 2: Analytical techniques, which gives describes specific analytical techniques, their applications, strengths and weaknesses.

This paper describes the principles, different configurations, applications, strengths and limitations of some of the more common analytical techniques used in food authenticity testing:
• Mass spectrometry
• Stable isotope mass spectrometry
• DNA analysis
• Nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry
• Spectroscopy.

Generic strengths and limitations of food authenticity test methods, particularly those relating to methods comparing against reference databases of authentic samples, are discussed in “Food authenticity testing: The role of analysis”. It also describes the difference between targeted and untargeted analysis.

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Much needed guidelines for building and curating food authenticity databases has been published by the FoodIntegrity EU Project.

Food fraud is a global issue often detected through the use of analytical testing. Analysis of suspect foodstuffs and comparison of their results to those contained within a food authenticity database is a typical approach. This scientific opinion was commissioned as part of the FoodIntegrity EU project to provide guidance for the creation of these food authenticity databases.

This opinion paper provides what the authors believe are the most important considerations which must be addressed, when creating a food authenticity database. Specifically, the areas of database scope, analytical methodology, sampling, collection and storage of data, validation and curation are discussed.

Full paper.

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A new article on food fraud public policy development for countries has been published by Dr John Spink (Director of the Food Fraud Initiative at Michigan State University) and the concepts described also apply to companies.

Abstract

Background

Food fraud is generally agreed to be defined as an illegal deception for economic gain using food which includes all types of fraud and all products. Food fraud – including the sub-category of Economically Motivated Adulteration or EMA – is an urgent global public policy issue that requires the development of common definitions and harmonized prevention management systems.

Scope and approach

There is a need to assess the food fraud public policy development steps to understand the current state and more importantly to identify next steps that will support efficient and successful implementation. Since food fraud policy development is in early stages of development, there is a unique opportunity to build upon the current state and make adjustments that will potentially yield tremendous benefit through harmonization and coordination.

The process model steps reviewed include

Problem Identification (Foundation Setting and Definition & Formation), Agenda Setting, Alternate Approaches, Legitimation, Implementation, and Evaluation. The research included a review of the current public policy development stages for the United Kingdom, European Commission, China, United States of America, and then also the Global Food Safety Initiative GFSI.

Key findings and conclusions

The international food fraud policy-making is currently advancing through Agenda Setting, Alternate Approaches, and Legitimation. The next steps for an efficient and effective food fraud policy-making implementation are to: (1) establish the definition and scope, (2) define food fraud as a food agency issue, (3) publish an official government statement focused on prevention (e.g., law, regulation, rule, guidance, etc.), (4) support and fund the policy implementation, and (5) continue to evaluate and adjust the response. Since food fraud policy development is in the early stages of development, there is a unique opportunity to build upon the current state and make adjustments that will potentially yield tremendous benefit through harmonization and coordination.

Full article.

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Issue 9 of the Food Authenticity Network Newsletter is now available and features a foreword from Professor Chris Elliott of Queen's University Belfast.

The newsletter describes how from January 2019, the Network has transitioned from being soley government funded to a public-private partnership led by LGC. Using this vehicle, our ambition is to build a truly global Network by working with governments, industry and other stakeholders from around the world. In support of this vision, the website domain name will transition to an international domain: www.foodauthenticity.global, but we will still operate our present domain www.foodauthenticity.uk in parallel to make sure links keep working.

In this issue, there are three interesting articles as well as our Centre of Expertise Profile:

  • An article on the FAO/IAEA’s new 5 year project on Authenticating High Value Foods.
  • An article from Which? on its consumer and authenticity activities.
  • An article that describes the latest features of the Decernis food fraud database (formerly run by USP)
  • Centre of Expertise Profile, LGC; LGC is proficient across multiple techniques required for food authenticity testing, including rapid / non-targeted / point-of-use methods.

 

 

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The 2019 Organic Market Report reveals that the UK organic market continues to grow. The market is now in to its 8th year of steady, loyal growth, growing +5.3% in 2018 and on target to reach £2.5bn by 2020.

The 2019 Organic Market Report is the most comprehensive report covering the organic market in the UK today. It is an essential read and reference document for anyone researching or working within the industry, selling organic products or assisting businesses in selling organic in the UK.

The report takes a detailed look at the sales trends across all channels and the major reasons for this growth – it includes updates on the performance of organic in supermarkets, independent retailers, the food service sector and a spotlight on home delivery.

It shares the output from recent consumer research that considers the organic customer, how they shop and what influences their decision making, as well as some interesting take-outs around hot topics like packaging and wider environmental issues that continue to influence shopper choices.

The report also covers farming and the opportunities for export and growth internationally. It takes a look at the year ahead and some of the key challenges and opportunities facing the organic industry.

The report is free for Soil Association Certification licensees (you just need your licence number) and costs £100 +VAT to purchase for non-licensees.

Download the 2019 Organic Market Report

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The British Retail Consortium sends 'no deal brexit letter' to MPs at the House of Commons warning of the consequences of a 'no deal Brexit' for consumers and the food supply chain. The letter is signed by the CEOs of ten leading retailers and says that "We are extremely concerned that our customers will be among the first to experience the realities of a no deal Brexit. We anticipate significant risks to maintaining the choice, quality and durability of food that our customers have come to expect in our stores, and there will be inevitable pressure on food prices from higher transport costs, currency devaluation and tariffs.

We are therefore asking you to work with your colleagues in Parliament urgently to find a solution that avoids the shock of a no deal Brexit on 29 March and removes these risks for UK consumers."

Read full letter here.

 

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Whilst deliberate adulteration of herbs and spices is understood to be a common phenomenon, this study highlights a potential food safety issue:

Between 2008 and 2017, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene tested more than 3000 samples of consumer products during lead poisoning case investigations and surveys of local stores, and of these, spices were the most frequently tested (almost 40% of the samples).

 

A total of 1496 samples of more than 50 spices from 41 countries were collected during investigations of lead poisoning cases among New York City children and adults and local store surveys.

More than 50% of the spice samples had detectable lead, and more than 30% had lead concentrations greater than 2 parts per million (ppm). Average lead content in the spices was significantly higher for spices purchased abroad than in the United States. The highest concentrations of lead were found in spices purchased in the countries Georgia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, and Morocco.

Read paper.

 

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The survey assessed how LAs plan and prioritise their food standards work, the resources and capacity they have and how they measure the success of their programmes. The review can be found here

Key findings from the survey

  • Levels of food standards resource in England are generally lower than in Wales and Northern Ireland, with 22% of English LAs having less than 1 Full-Time Equivalent (‘FTE’) person dedicated to food standards work.  
  • 15% of food businesses are unrated for food standards risk, however the figures for some LAs are higher
  • LAs had difficulty in recruiting qualified officers and 57% of LAs were not in a position to support a student through the qualification process 

Alternative approaches to food standards delivery are being adopted effectively by many LAs. FSA intend to explore and build on areas of good practice as part of their reform programme. 

Review to be discussed at the next FSA Board meeting

The review of food standards has been published as part of the FSA Board papers. 

The next Board meeting will be held at Church House in London on Wednesday 5 December 2018 at 8.30am. You can attend in person or watch it live online.

A full agenda and published papers can be viewed in the board meeting section of the FSA website

For details on how to register to attend the Board meeting, please see the Board section of the FSA website.

 

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Sourdough or sourfaux?

According to an investigation by Which? magazine, 15 out of 19 so-called sourdough loaves, sold in supermarkets, that they examined were not made in the traditional way and contain extra ingredients or additives.

Traditional sourdough is considered to be one of the oldest forms of bread and the technique can be traced back to ancient Egypt.

 

But Which? magazine says it looked at 19 sourdough loaves sold in supermarkets and found only four were made in the traditional way with the three basic ingredients.

The others contained extra ingredients, such as yeast, ascorbic acid and yoghurt and vinegar.

While these are not necessarily bad for you or unhealthy, Chris Young from the Real Bread Campaign says customers are being misled.

"If you are told you are buying something, you should get what you pay for. Particularly when some of the supermarkets are charging a premium for that product," he said.

The Real Bread Campaign group says it wants to see a legal definition of the terms "sourdough" or "artisan bread", so stores cannot "misinterpret" them.

Read full article.

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Australia's biggest listed honey company and some of the country's largest supermarket chains face accusations of unwittingly selling "fake" honey.

Testing at a leading international scientific lab that specialises in honey fraud detection has found that almost half the honey samples selected from supermarket shelves were "adulterated", meaning it has been mixed with something other than nectar from bees.

The adulterated samples were all products that blend local and imported honey.

ASX-listed Capilano's Allowrie-branded Mixed Blossom Honey, which sources honey from Australia and overseas, and markets itself as 100 per cent honey, showed up as "adulterated" in the majority of samples tested.

The results are set to ignite a storm over how honey purity is tested that will involve the Federal Government as well as local and international regulators.

Read full article.

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