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As the popularity of coffee as a beverage in Europe grew in the 18th century, so has its vulnerability to adulteration and fraud. This review looks at the changing methodology to uncover adulteration and fraud over 3 centuries. It focuses on the discrimination between coffee and other foods or between coffee and its by-products. The earliest chemical, physical and microscopy methods are presented followed by methods developed in the 20th and 21st centuries using chromatography and spectroscopy associated with advanced statistical tools, and DNA-based methods. The earliest adulterant studied was chicory, but from the 20th century onwards, maize, coffee by-products, and barley were the most studied, followed by chicory, rice and other food items. Most methods have low sensitivity, and are adversely affected by matrix effects, especially degree of roasting.

Read the abstract here

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A number of Australian fresh produce industry bodies have received funding as part of a Victorian government programme designed to improve the way agricultural producers get their products to market. In the first tranche of the Food to Market programme, A$8.4m worth of grants has been distributed to 13 key industry and regional peak bodies. Global Victoria has contributed an additional A$2.8m to provide export recovery support to industries impacted by disruptions as a result of the pandemic.

 Ausveg received A$960k to commence a pilot in partnership with the Victorian government to investigate and trial alternative packaging and transport options for broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, celery and lettuce crop producers in Victoria.

Cherry Growers Australia received A$750k to support the development of a ‘chemical use for export toolkit’ to allow businesses planning to export their produce so they can more easily meet the expectations of international markets.

Citrus Australia and the Australian Table Grape Association (ATGA) received A$1.4m to lead two innovative traceability pilots for premium fruit, which  include using leading technology, isotope testing, cool-chain tracking and orchard mapping to enhance traceability. This will aim to safeguard the industry from fraudulent products and ensure that the integrity of premium fruit brands and varieties is protected. As regards table grapes ATGA has partnered with Agriculture Victoria for its A$650k pilot project, which commenced in June 2021 and will run for the duration of the 2021/22 table grape harvest season. Improvement in traceability will be developed by Technology provider Result Group, who will apply unique serialised GS1 Digital Link-enabled QR code labels to export table grapes, allowing the automated collection of data from farm and supply chain. This information can be shared with consumers to authenticate the food’s precise origin and engage with the brand through an open platform smartphone scan.

Read the article here or the ATGA Press Release

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Authentication of the Italian Spirit Drink "Grappa"


"Grappa" is a traditional Italian spirit drink produced from the distillation of fermented grape marc and seeds after winemaking. In the EU Spirit Drink Regulations, "grappa" is a protected name, and it has to be produced from Italian cultivated and processed grapes. Italian researchers have developed a method to authenticate "grappa" using alcohol measurement and gas chromatography analysis of the volatiles on 123 spirit samples. Of these, 43 were "grappa" and the others were spirit drinks from wine, grapes, apples and pears. The samples were divided into a training set (94 samples) of a chemometric model using linear discriminant analysis (LDA), and a validation set (29 samples) was used to test the model and gave good discrimination between the different types of spirits.

Two suspicious samples of "grappa" seized by Italian customs were also examined and analysed. Visual examination revealed differences in the cork closures and barcodes. The analytical results on the chemometric model indicated the two samples were wine spirit rather than "grappa".  A further chemometric model was calculated, based on principal component analysis (PCA), which indicated that the two samples were different from wine spirit, and it was concluded that they were an adulterated "grappa" rather than wine spirit. The adulteration was not identified, and further investigation is required. However, the approach developed in this research would serve as a rapid test to authenticate "grappa", and samples not fitting the chemometric models would require further analysis if not fitting exactlyinto the different types of spirit. It is also a useful exercise in developing a method to verify a protected name in food law.

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In this paper, a new approach to rapid pork detection was developed using an amplification-free and mix-to-read CRISPR-Cas12-based nucleic acid analytical strategy. An optimized guide RNA (gRNA) targeting the pork cytochrome b (Cyt b) gene was designed, which allowed specific identification of the target Cyt b gene in pork components. Activation of Cas12 protein to cleave single-stranded DNA probes with terminally labelled fluorophore and quencher groups then allowed confirmation of the presence of pork Cytb by reading the fluorescence signal. The assay allowed specific detection of pork in beef, mutton, and chicken products, The reliability of the method was tested on processed halal meat products - beef luncheon meat and spiced beef, as well as non-halal foods - sausage and dried pork slices.

Read the abstract and supporting information here

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9549834470?profile=RESIZE_400xForeword by the Government Chemist

Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) is a powerful tool for rapidly and cost-effectively identifying and characterising plant, animal and microbial species present in mixed food samples.

The application of NGS to food authenticity, adulteration and safety testing is a constantly evolving field with its own unique set of challenges that need to be explored. Further work needs to be conducted to better understand the performance characteristics and establish relevant performance criteria and metrics, to enable results generated in different laboratories to be compared and interpreted with equal confidence.

Following concerns raised from food industry members on the use of NGS for the quantitative determination of food ingredients, the Government Chemist engaged with Defra’s Authenticity Methodology Working Group (AMWG) [1] and its Technical Sub-Group (AMWG-TSG), resulting in the AMWG producing a view [2] on the use of NGS for food authenticity testing [3].

Download Defra’s Authenticity Methodology Working Group’s view on the use of Next Generation Sequencing for food authenticity testing

[1] An independent expert group that provides scientific and technical advice to support Defra’s food authenticity programme.

[2] The views/opinions expressed by AMWG were correct at the time of the note (November 2020).

[3] Government Chemist representatives: Selvarani Elahi, Deputy Government Chemist, is the Chair of AMWG and Dr Malcolm Burns, Head of GMO unit, Principal Scientist and Special Advisor to the Government Chemist, is a Member of AMWG; they both participated in the AMWG-TSG meeting on NGS and subsequent discussions, inputting into the AMWG view on NGS.

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9546213456?profile=RESIZE_400x 2020 Annual Food Fraud report: Fight against food fraud in Europe continued despite the COVID-19 pandemic 

Today, the European Commission has published the 2020 annual report of the EU Agri-Food Fraud Network (EU FFN) and the Administrative Assistance and Cooperation system for Food Fraud (AAC-FF).

In five years, the number of cases created per year has more than doubled, going from 157 in 2016 to 349 in 2020. The increased interaction between Member States within the EU Agri-Food Fraud Network has shown that fight against food fraud in Europe is tightening up. Sharing information on suspected cross-border fraud violations has proven to be essential in better identifying, investigating and protecting EU customers against illegal practices.

The EU FFN also works with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) in joint actions targeting counterfeited foodstuff. In 2020, members of the network were also engaged in OPSON - a joint Europol/Interpol initiative targeting trafficking in fake and substandard food and beverages and operation LAKE, which focused on the trafficking of the protected European eel (Anguilla Anguilla) species.

More information on the EU FFN can be found here.

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The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has published its July-August 2021 Food Fraud Monthly Summary reporting food fraud incidents and investigations from around the world. These have been kindly represented as an infographic above by our Member Bruno Séchet and thanks for allowing us to share it with the rest of the Network.

In addition to the news items above, there are also references to many interesting articles including an overview of blockchain, guidelines against fraud for tea and herbs, and a recent WWF report on sharkmeat.

You can download the July-Aug 2021 Food Fraud Summary here


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The tea market has an annual global value of £15 billion with a 10% annual growth rate. The ASSET Technology Centre based at Queens University Belfast (and one of the Network's Centres of Expertise) has received funding from Agilent (the Thought leader Award) to use a range of analytical methods to test teas from different geographical origins and produce a 'chemical fingerprinting' map. It is hoped that the map will be able to check the origin of the tea to prevent mislabelling, and also the presence of known bulking agents (such as Prussian Blue, coal tar dye, indigo, soapstone, plumbago and gypsum) will be tested for. Prof Elliott, who heads the project, does not underestimate the challenge tea presents in its complex composition, as well as the complicated nature of tea production.

Read the article here

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The aim of this study by Brazilian researchers was to identify authenticity markers to distinguish between true and false cinnamon, and use mid-infrared spectroscopy (MIR) with chemometric analysis as a fast screening method. A  total of 129 samples of cinnamon were obtained from Brazil, Sri Lanka and Paraguay. The samples were analysed by hplc (high performance liquid chromatography) and MIR. The levels of eugenol, cinnamaldehyde and coumarin were measured.  Samples of true cinnamon had higher levels of eugenol and cinnamaldehyde and lower levels of coumarin, and they also had higher antioxidant activity. Principal component analysis (PCA) of both the hplc and MIR results was able to separate the two types of cinnamon, and partial least square discriminant analysis (PLS-DA) was able to differentiate between the true and false cinnamon with 94.4% and 100% accuracy for the compositional analysis and MIR respectively.

Read the abstract here

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Skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) is the most commercialised species of tuna in canned tuna. Chinese scientist have developed a novel loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) assay targeting the cytochrome b gene for rapid screening of skipjack tuna. LAMP primers were designed so that they were specific for skipjack tuna, and the specificity was confirmed against 22 other fish species. The LAMP assay could detect as low as 50 pg skipjack tuna DNA, by both colorimetric and real time fluorescent determination. The LAMP assay was tested on 39 canned tuna products, and only 4 samples contained skipjack tuna. The LAMP results were also confirmed by DNA sequencing, hence the novel LAMP method can be used for rapid screening of skipjack tuna in canned  fish products. 

Read the abstract here

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Misdescription of fish species is a major global problem. DNA identification of single fish species is now well researched, but authentication and quantification of fish species in mixtures remains a challenge. An international group of scientists have applied a novel high-throughput shotgun DNA sequencing and mass spectrometry-based proteomics in parallel on the same samples to estimate the relative abundance of fish species in a mixed sample. Seven species of fish were used for the individual fish samples, but the mixture was only made up of 4 species (Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), Atlantic haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus), Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), and platyfish (Xiphophorus maculatus)).The DNA sequencing approach applying masked reference libraries was able to discriminate and predict relative abundances of different fish species in the mixed sample with high accuracy. Also the proteomics tools based on direct spectra comparisons showed feasibility in the identification of individual fish species, and the estimation of their respective relative abundances in a mixed sample. 

The results showed that DNA sequencing was more accurate for the quantification of closely related species, but proteomics was more accurate for quantification at the taxonomic family level. In practice, a possible tiered approach, taking advantage of the specificity of DNA sequencing and the abundance accuracy of proteomics would be best suited for tackling fish species misdescription.

 Read the full open access paper here


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IFST Horizon Scanning Report 2021

9412425291?profile=RESIZE_710xInstitute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) has published its Horizon Scanning Report 2021, which includes essential insights from its members, for the future of the food sector. 

Drawing on the combined expertise of our professional membership, IFST has gathered insights for the future, enabling readers to envisage how the food sector will likely be impacted in the next three years by the main factors identified in the report. 

Click here to watch a recording of Chris Gilbert-Wood's (Chair of the IFST Scientific committee) update on the Horizon Scanning Survey outputs from our Spring Conference (SC21).

This report includes graphs and charts representing data collected from our members' survey, click here for a larger view of the data. 

Download the report here.

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9405396455?profile=RESIZE_710xIn spring 2021, Oceana Canada tested 94 seafood samples from retailers and restaurants in four major
Canadian cities: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax and found that of the samples tested, 46 per cent were mislabelled.

This is consistent with national testing conducted between 2017-2019, which showed that 47 per cent of 472 seafood samples tested were mislabelled in some way. Of these,
51 per cent of 373 samples were previously mislabelled in the same four cities tested.

Read full report.


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9405311254?profile=RESIZE_400xThe US National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) and the Department of Defense’s Center for Development of Security Excellence (CDSE) have published a risk mitigation guide to help organizations in the food industry understand insider risks, establish insider risk programs, and develop mitigation strategies.

The “Insider Risk Mitigation Programs: Food and Agriculture Sector Implementation Guide” was developed in collaboration with federal partners and stakeholders, including the FDA.

The guide includes links to federal resources in food and agriculture, and case studies concerning food adulteration, IP theft and active shooter incidents that were carried about by insiders.

Any organization can be exposed by an insider threat, which is a person who has authorized access and uses it to commit harm to the organization. “Those with authorized access to facilities, personnel, or information can include employees, vendors, partners, suppliers, or others,” according to NCSC. “Most insider threats exhibit risky behavior prior to committing negative workplace events. If identified early, many insider threats can be mitigated before harm to the organization occurs.”

Insider threats can target food organizations through food adulteration, food fraud, theft and workplace violence.

This guide has been added to the Food Authenticity Network's Food Fraud Mitgation section under the 'Guidance' tab.

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9405188875?profile=RESIZE_710xAlcohol has emerged as the sector with the largest number of counterfeit cases in India in 2020, with experts attributing this to a lack of enforcement as well as high profits available for counterfeiters during the COVID-19 crisis.

Apart from alcohol, multiple other everyday food items in India including cumin seeds, mustard oil and ghee were mentioned as major sectors affected by counterfeiting activity.

Read full article.

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In the last decades, the demand for molecular tools for authenticating and tracing agri-food products has significantly increased. Food safety and quality have gained an increased interest for consumers, producers, and retailers, therefore, the availability of analytical methods for the determination of food authenticity and the detection of major adulterations takes on a fundamental role.

Among the different molecular approaches, some techniques such as the molecular markers-based methods are well established, while some innovative approaches such as isothermal amplificationbased methods and DNA metabarcoding have only recently found application in the agri-food sector.

In this review, we provide an overview of the most widely used molecular techniques for fresh and processed agri-food authentication and traceability, showing their recent advances and applications and discussing their main advantages and limitations. The application of these techniques to agrifood traceability and authentication can contribute a great deal to the reassurance of consumers in terms of transparency and food safety and may allow producers and retailers to adequately promote their products.

Read full review.

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9405062272?profile=RESIZE_400xThe Government Chemist 2021 Conference “Safe food for tomorrow’s world” took place online on 23 and 24 June. The conference included talks from 20 national and international speakers on topics from regulatory perspective, how food science can impact health outcomes and novel solutions for food authenticity and sustainability. The talks were well received by the 240+ participants who attended the conference for at least one talk.

This event had originally been planned for June 2020, then postponed to June 2021 and finally delivered as an online event. The transition to the online platform did present technical challenges and limited the interaction between participants. However, it also presented an opportunity to engage a greater number of stakeholders at UK and international level.


A significant proportion of participants (approx 50%) represented UK government departments and local authorities from all the nations.

There were also participants from trade associations, industry, consultants, consumer advocacy groups, press and independent attendants.

The vast majority of attendants joined from the UK. However, people joined from Turkey, Slovakia, Latvia, Uruguay and Hong Kong.


In feedback received from a selection of participants approximately 42.5% of respondents felt it was better than expected, 9% said it was much better than expected and 48.5% said that the conference met their expectations.

Presentations from the conference are available.

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9405001068?profile=RESIZE_584xA new environmentally friendly prototype sensor has been developed by CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, to help combat food-fraud and protect the reputation of Australian produce.

The novel technology uses vibration energy harvesting and machine learning to accurately detect anomalies in the transportation of products such as meat. 

For example, if a refrigeration truck carrying exported meat stopped during its journey to the processing plant, the technology would be able to detect this and if any products had been moved or removed during this period.

This allows producers and logistics operators to pin-point handling errors and identify when products are stolen or substituted.

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9404964877?profile=RESIZE_584xThis artefactual field experiment explores consumers’ willingness-to-pay (WTP) price premiums for fish products to avoid the risk and uncertainty of purchasing inauthentic produce.

The influence of subjective probabilistic beliefs, risk and ambiguity preferences is investigated. Participants’ WTP is elicited using experimental auctions, while behavioural factors are elicited using incentivised and incentive-compatible methods: the quadratic scoring rule and multiple price lists.

Results show that consumers are willing to pay a premium to avoid food fraud and purchase an authentic fish product. This premium is higher under uncertainty than risk, likely driven by ambiguity preferences which affect consumers’ purchasing under uncertainty.

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Food fraud is the intentional deception carried out for gain, and is growing. Rice is the most used and the staple cereal for more than half of the world. Because of the scale of the global rice industry, the opportunities for fraud are large, of concern and threat to the economies and health of many.

Scope and approach

This review ouylines the complexities of the global rice industry and outlines current frauds. Fraudulent actions can be on many levels such as: botanical and geographical origin, adulteration/substitution, ageing, cultivation practices, aroma/flavour and amounts of microelements. To deal with new rice frauds, the range of techniques to detect them is increasing.

Key findings and conclusions

Current research concerning rice fraud is mainly focussed on rice authenticity testing for botanical/geographical origin or cultivation methods. In the case of Mass Specrometry, more advanced techniques are increasingly applied due to their great untargeted analysis power. Spectroscopic techniques can mainly provide screening, but rapid and non-destructive sample analysis, they are cost effective and once established require little expertise. DNA assays are excellent tools to apply for authenticity testing of botanical origin of rice. There is at present, no single analytical tool capable of providing an answer to all rice authentication problems, thus it is necessary to use several approaches in profiling and identification of possible markers and/or adulterants.

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