adulteration (14)



One of the frequently encountered types of adulteration is the adulteration of meat and animal products. In its most recent annual report [1] , the Food Fraud Network showed data that in the top ten product categories, fish and fish products take the second place, meat and meat products the third and poultry the fifth. Jointly, these three animal product categories eclipse any other product category.

There are different types of fraud that can be found in animal products. These include addition of illegal substances like melamine to milk, the treatment of tuna with carbon monoxide, and the replacement of high-quality species with lower quality ones, or even illegal ones. An example for this can be found in the publication by Fang and Zhang [2], where the addition of murine meat to substitute mutton has been reported.

Since there are many animal species that can be used for adulteration, using a species-specific PCR is often not economically viable when the adulterant species is not known. Here, the DNA barcoding approach is the better choice to cover a much wider range of species.

In the literature, numerous publications can be found that describe different primer sets to be used for barcoding. Unfortunately, not all methods have been thoroughly validated for the species they can, and, equally important, cannot detect.

The German §64 Food and Feed Law Methods Group for Animal and Plant Speciation has developed a tool that will help scientists to quickly determine which species can be detected and which cannot with a specific set of primers.

The tool, called BaTAnS – short for Barcoding Table for Animal Species – lists relevant publications, identifies the level of validation that has been performed for a specific method (and set of primers).

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Study finds dolphin meat in tuna cans

7857838700?profile=RESIZE_400xA study conducted by Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) researchers found traces of dolphin meat in three out of 15 samples of tuna cans on sale in Mexico. 

Lead researcher Karla Vanessa Hernendez Herbert used DNA probes with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to identify dolphin meat adulteration.

The full report has yet to be published in a journal, but the Herbert and Professor Francisco Montiel Sosa disclosed the results in an interview with Mexican newspaper, Excelsior. The original article can be read here in Spanish., or a summary of the article from SeafoodSource can be found here.

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4223074748?profile=RESIZE_710xThe content of the endosperm of the coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) contains “coconut water”. This practically sterile liquid, which is prized for its delicate, albeit labile, flavour when fresh, has had a recent dramatic increase in global demand. This review examines  the variances in natural composition, maturity, processing-induced compositional changes, adulterations, product recalls, classical and instrumental methods of analysis and on the available composition standards of coconut water. The review also makes recommendations on the analytical approaches to verifying the authenticty and determination of possible adulterants, but also given the variation of composition with maturity, that  a weight of evidence approach should be taken in the assessment of authenticity.

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3823828176?profile=RESIZE_710xThis review provides general information about olive oil and the possible causes of adul­teration, mislabelling, counterfeiting, and fraud of the product. It reviews the possible adulterants in olive oil, the underly­ing causes of adulteration, and how to test for the pres­ence of these adulterants. Data on trade and market dynamics are included. Also, the review focuses primarily on current deceptive practices in the global olive oil trade rather than historical adul­terations.

Read the full review here

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3822242868?profile=RESIZE_710xIndian researchers have developed a PCR method based using 3 different primers on the mitochondrial gene 12S rRNA. The method produces a cow specific amplicon (346bp) and a buffalo specific amplicon (220bp). The method can detect 0.5% addition of buffalo milk to cow milk. Although this test has been used in India to determine buffalo milk adulteration of cow milk, it could be adapted to determine cow milk adulteration of buffalo milk e.g. in the case of mozzarella cheese.

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3708557211?profile=RESIZE_710xThe herbal products, sold worldwide as medicines or foods, are perceived as low risk because they are considered natural and thus safe. The quality of these products is ineffectively regulated and controlled. The growing evidence for their lack of authenticity is causing deep concern, but the scale of this phenomenon at the global, continental or national scale remains unknown.

Reserachers analysed data reporting the authenticity, as detected with DNA-based methods, of 5,957 commercial herbal products sold in 37 countries, distributed in all six inhabited continents. The global survey shows that a substantial proportion (27%) of the herbal products commercialized in the global marketplace is adulterated when their content was tested against their labeled, claimed ingredient species. The adulterated herbal products are distributed across all continents and regions. The proportion of adulterated products varies significantly among continents, being highest in Australia (79%), South America (67%), lower in Europe (47%), North America (33%), Africa (27%) and the lowest in Asia (23%).

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Buffalo milk commands a premium price compared to cows’ milk, and is used to make mozzarella cheese. Products labelled as “buffalo mozzarella” must be made solely with buffalo milk, and not with milk from any other species. Reseachers at the Quadram Institute, Norwich have developed  a new multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) mass spectrometry (MS) assay measuring the mass of ‘marker’ peptides which, due to the amino acid sequence differences, are characteristic of either buffalo or cow in αs1-casein. The markers can also be used to give relative quantitation for mixtures of bovine and buffalo milk or cheese, based upon ratios of transition peak areas.

The method was used to conduct a pilot survey of retail mozzarella products. Eight samples of supermarket cheeses specifically labelled as buffalo were all found to be 100% buffalo. Five other samples, simply labelled mozzarella, were all 100% cow. These samples showed no signs of adulteration. However, when 17 other products such as pizzas were examined, two thirds of these samples from supermarket pizzas, restaurant pizzas and other restaurant dishes that claimed to be buffalo mozzarella contained at least some cows’ milk. In some cases, the mozzarella was 100% derived from cow.

 Read the Press Release and the full journal paper.

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Black pepper is the most used spice globally, and hence vulnerable to adulteration by cheaper bulking agents. Researchers in N. Ireland have published a feasibility study using NIR and FTIR (Near and Fourier Transform Infra-Red) Spectroscopy with chemometrics to screen ground black pepper for non-spice black pepper materials (husk, pinheads and defatted spent materials), as well as foreign plant material (papaya seeds and chili). Good separation performance between black pepper and adulterated samples could be shown.

  Read the abstract here

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The Danish Consumer Organisation, Forbrugerrådet Tænk, collected 10 samples of oregano from supermarkets and stores around Copenhagen during the summer. The samples were sent for analysis by FTIR and chemometric modelling followed by mass spectrometry for confirmation. Three of the samples had only 50% oregano, and a fourth 70% oregano, the remainder was dried plant material from olive leaves and myrtle. 

Read the article at: Danish oregano tests

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The ease of adulterating spices combined with the complexity of fraud detection makes the condiments highly vulnerable to fraud, a scientific study has found. Published in the journal Food Control, the research examined fraud vulnerabilities of eight companies in the spices supply chain using the SSAFE food fraud vulnerability assessment tool, which comprises 50 indicators categorised in opportunities, motivations, and control measures to provide a fraud vulnerability profile.
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In the recent survey, conducted by the Food and Drug Administration Department of India under the milk survey of Food Safety and Standard Authority, the apex regulatory body to ensure food standards and quality in the country, 25 per cent of milk samples failed the quality check.

These samples were not only taken from dairies but also from milk packets.

“Under the survey, conducted by the FSSAI across the nation, we have collected 45 samples from various dairies and packaging units of the city. Over 10 samples have failed to clear the quality test including four contain sodium bicarbonate,” senior food safety officer Manish Swami said.

He said that samples of Mahindra Saboro, the packaged milk launched by Mahindra and Mahindra, were also failed as they contain sodium bicarbonate. “Samples of Saboro were also failed and many of the samples contain more water. Milk samples were also found to contain a neutraliser (sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydroxide) to increase the shelf life of milk. Many samples had fat content lower than what was prescribed by the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (PFA),” he added.

However, samples taken from rural areas were found even better than the set standards in terms of fat content and quality. Swami said that they would serve notices to the adulterators and also send our report to the FSSAI.

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IFR has developed a rapid multiple reaction monitoring mass spectrometry method for the detection and relative quantitation of the adulteration of meat with that of an undeclared species is presented. Selected peptide markers derived from myoglobin can be used for species detection, and the ratios of  transition peak areas for corresponding peptides is proposed for relative quantitation. The method has been developed from the myoglobin of four meat species - beef, pork, horse and lamb, and test results are encouraging.

Read the full research paper at:                                                

or read a summary article at:

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An FDA Press Notice gives details of a new Regulation to prevent food adulteration and fraud. It obliges for the first time all companies (US and foreign) marketing food in the US to complete and maintain a written food defence plan that assesses their potential vulnerabilities to deliberate contamination or adulteration, where the intent is to cause wide-scale public health harm.

Read the full FDA Press Release at:

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