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This interesting overview of methods to detect adulteration of different spices is presented in an easy understable way. There is an interview with a Belgian spice trader outlining the scale of the problem. The various authenticity methods used to detect spice adulteration are described by scientists at the European Commission's Joint  Research Centre - Fraud Detection and Prevention Unit in Geel, Belgium.

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Blockchain technology has emerged as a promising technology providing numerous benefits that improve trust in the extended food supply chains (FSCs). It can enhance traceability, enable more efficient recall, and aids in risk reduction of counterfeits and other forms of illicit trade. This open-access review presents the findings from a systematic study of 61 journal articles. The main benefits of blockchain technology in FCSs are improved food traceability, enhanced collaboration, operational efficiencies and streamlined food trading processes. Potential challenges include technical, organisational and regulatory issues. The review also examines the theoretical and practical implications of the study, and presents several ideas for future research.  

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This study compared the capabilities of three spectroscopic techniques as fast screening platforms for honey authentication purposes. Multifloral honeys were collected in the three main honey-producing regions of Argentina over four harvesting seasons to give a total of 502 samples. Spectra were run on each of the samples with FT-MIR ( Fourier transform mid-infrared), NIR (near infrared) and FT-Raman  (Fourier transform Raman)  spectroscopy. The spectroscopic platforms were compared on the basis of the classification performance achieved under a supervised chemometric approach. Very good classification scores to distinguish the three Argentian regions were achieved by all the spectroscopies, and a nearly perfect classification was provided by FT-MIR. The results obtained in the present work suggested that FT-MIR had the best potential for fingerprinting-based honey authentication, and demonstrated that sufficient accuracy levels to be commercially useful can be reached.

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Consumer Survey Reveals Concern About Food Fraud

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Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC)  conducted a survey  which questioned over 1,750 consumers in the US, UK and China. The effect of Covid-19 was a major concern with consumers, and  73% of respondents believe that the pandemic will impact on the viability of the global supply chain. Moreover, 71% think it will affect global access to food.  Other issues of concern were food safety and food fraud, with 60% of respondents said they are worried about keeping food safe from toxins and bacteria, and 58% revealed they are concerned about preventing food fraud.    

 
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Adulteration of the Herbs Is Still Occurring

In 2015, IGFS (Institute for Global Food Securty) at Queens University Belfast in cooperation with the Consumer Organisation Which? conducted a survey of oregano, which found 25% of the samples tested were adulterated. This year, a small follow-up survey was carried out on 20 samples of oregano, and only one sample was found to be adulterated, which clearly shows a huge improvement from the earlier 2015 survey.

In parallel with the survey on oregano, in August and September this year, a snapshot survey of the herb sage was undertaken, and 19 samples bought from major online retailers; all the well-known UK supermarkets; and smaller, independent shops such as ethnic grocery stores. In this survey, just over 25 percent of all the samples tested were adulterated. The level of bulking out of the sage samples with non-food materials such as olive leaves and other tree leaves, ranged from 29% to a staggering 58%. However, none of the brands sold by the big UK supermarket chains was found to be fraudulent, and only some sage sold by online retailers and smaller independents was found to have been adulterated. 

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Thanks very much to one of our new Centres of Expertise GfL for bringing to our attention this German investigative TV show Frontal 21 addressing the very important topic of the use of illegal pesticides.

This is another example of where an authenticity issue can have a very direct effect on food safety. The consequences for nature and humans are incalculable. Nobody knows what these pesticides are made of, which and how much toxins they contain.

The Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety has already examined dozens of suspicious samples this year and discovered many counterfeit or unapproved pesticides. In the first half of the year alone, Europol has seized over 1,300 tons of illegal pesticides, a new record. The European police authority estimates the proportion of counterfeits in the total amount of all pesticides at 14 to 15 percent.

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The Food Standards Agency's National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) has received two reports of organised meat theft which may have food safety consequences for consumers. One report from a major retailer was about the theft of meat and poultry items by a driver network. The theft is believed to have taken place over a considerable time period, and there is concern that the stolen products may have entered the human food chain via a restaurant. As the stolen meat may have spent some time outside the cold cgain, it may have posed a risk to human health.

The second report concerns an organised group obtaining meat fraudulently from meat processors and traders, where a woman placed orders for meat products over the phone, and paid for them using several credit cards, which later turned out be stolen outside the UK. The woman has then organised for a taxi to transport the meat to fictional addresses in London and Southend-On-Sea, again paying for the taxi by means of a credit card. The taxi was later diverted to another address in Southend and, in one case, the meat was loaded into a van. Subsequently, both the meat purveyor and the taxi firms were notified that the payments made on the credit cards were fraudulent, meaning they were required to refund the transactions.

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Grass-based milk production is a major contributor to Irish agricultural output, and the terms "grass-fed" and "pasture-raised" are appreciated by many consumers as a more sustainable and welfare friendly means of producing milk. This study characterised the Irish raw milk pool using SIRA of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and sulphur. Authentic raw milk samples were collected from 50 farms on five occasions over 13 months. δ13C values reflected a high level of grass input, and values increased with increasing cereal concentrate feed input (P < 0.001). δ18O values were most negative in spring. There was a significant interaction between feed and season for δ13C and δ15N values (P < 0.05), with the impact of concentrate feeding most evident in spring. The isotopic ratio values of the Irish milk pool may serve as authenticity markers with the potential to discriminate Irish milk and dairy products from similar commodities from other countries.

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8062238667?profile=RESIZE_400xThis study has determined the isotopic ratios, i.e. of oxygen and hydrogen isotopes, of Slovenian milk and its major constituents: water, casein, and lactose. In addition, the oxygen isotope ratios of cow, sheep, and goat’s milk were compared. Oxygen isotope ratios in milk show seasonal variability, and are also 18O enriched in relation to animal drinking water. The δ18O water values were higher in sheep and goat’s milk when compared to cow milk, reflecting the isotopic composition of the drinking water source, and the effect of differences in the animal’s thermoregulatory physiologies. The relationship between δ18O milk and δ18O lactose is an indication that even lower amounts (>7%) of added water to milk, can be determined. This approach could be a possible confirmatory method to determining added water in milk to the freezing point method.

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Abstract

Milk and milk products play a vital role in diets around the globe. Due to their nutritional benefits there has been an increase in production and consumption over the past thirty years. For this growth to continue the safety and authenticity of dairy products needs to be maintained which is a huge area of concern. Throughout the process, from farm to processor, different sources of contamination (biological, chemical or physical) may occur either accidently or intentionally. Through online resources (the EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and HorizonScan) safety and fraud data were collected from the past five years relating to milk and milk products. Cheese notifications were most frequently reported for both safety alerts (pathogenic micro-organisms) and fraud incidences (fraudulent documentation). Alongside the significant number of biological contaminations identified, chemical, physical and inadequate controls (in particular; foreign bodies, allergens, industrial contaminants and mycotoxins) were also found. Although the number of incidents were significantly smaller, these contaminants can still pose a significant risk to human health depending on their toxicity and exposure. Grey literature provided a summary of contamination and fraud issues from around the globe and shows its potential to be used alongside database resources for a holistic overview. In ensuring the integrity of milk during ever changing global factors (climate change, competition between food and feed and global pandemics) it is vital that safety and authenticity issues are continually monitored by industry, researchers and governing bodies.

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In a ruling on 1 October, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) stated that the EU harmonised regulation for food labelling “does not preclude member states (MSs) from adopting measures providing for additional mandatory particulars regarding the origin or provenance.” However, the ECJ added that those national measures need to be justified on one or several grounds, including the protection of public health and prevention of food fraud. The adoption of mandatory origin labelling is possible only if there is a “proven link between certain qualities of the food concerned and their origin of provenance.”  The onus is on MSs to provide evidence that the majority of consumers attach significant value to the provision of that information.  The case had been brought to the ECJ by the French Government on the case lodged by the company Groupe Lactalis, which sought the annulment of a governmental decree requiring the labelling of the French, European or non-European origin of milk and milk used as an ingredient in pre-packaged foods.

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Fish species substitution is a major global fraud problem. Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is widely appreciated, especially smoked or as fillets, and is a high value  fish in many export markets, and thus vulnerable to substitution. Chinese researchers have developed a real-time DNA assay based on isothermal  amplification (LAMP-real time fluorescence loop-mediated isothermal amplification) of a specific section of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene, which is sensitive, and more rapid than normal PCR thermocycling. The assay was specific to Atlantic salmon without any cross-reactivity with 11 non-targeted salmonoid species. It was tested on 30 commercial salmon products collected in local markets in Nanjing, and only six were found to contain Atlantic salmon.

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8053818657?profile=RESIZE_400x FSAI's annual report covers enforcement, inspections, sampling, recalls, Brexit, and food fraud. On its 2019 food fraud activities, the RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) dealt with 3,997 events, of these just 34 were notified by Ireland. Some 21 notifications were about food which had originated in Ireland, and 13 were related to foods in distribution in the country. During 2019, authorised officers from the FSAI, other state regulatory authorities, and official agencies conducted 52 investigations where breaches of food law and food fraud were suspected. Ireland published four cases relating to alcohol, beef, and fish in the European Commission’s Administrative Assistance and Cooperation/Food Fraud Network database. Eleven EU AAC FFN notifications were processed. Returns submitted by Ireland to Europol as part of Operation Opson included seizures of food of animal origin such as meat and dairy, and alcohol.

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Researchers at Queens University Belfast’s Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) were called in to support an investigation after a major food-poisoning incident in Uganda in March 2019, which killed five people and saw hundreds hospitalised. The incident was linked to a specialist nutritious food - Super Cereal, a fortified wheat and soya product supplied under the World Food Programme (WFP) to around 5 million people every year. The supply to affected area was suspended pending the investigation. The DNA of jimsonweed, a plant in the nightshade family, was found which corroborated the presence of high levels of tropane alkaloids in the suspended batches of Super Cereal. However, a second outbreak occurred in a refugee camp in the North of Uganda, where the Super Cereal going into this region was from a completely different supply chain. So the WFP had to take the decision to suspend all supplies of Super Cereal. The QUB team, however, suspected that some form of fraud had occurred, and were able to show that both outbreaks were caused by contaminated ingredients from the same batches produced in Turkey.

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In some countries, honey from native, non-domesticated species, such as Asian Apis dorsata and Apis cerana commands a much higher price than honey from the colonies of the domesticated honeybee Apis mellifera, and therefore is more vulnerable to fraud. Slovenian researchers have developed DNA  markers from a single copy ANT (adenine nucleotide translocase) gene using exon-primed intron-crossing (EPIC) primers and a double restriction protocol to obtain sequence information, which can identify the three bee species in honey. The method was developed using small extracts from 25 honeybee tissue samples and 21 honeybee products, and can be used for other bee products such as royal jelly.

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Food Standards Scotland’s Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU) have highlighted four sectors as priorities, which have been targeted and continue to be targeted by criminals committing food fraud:-

- Red meat: fraudulently tagged livestock, stolen livestock, illegal slaughter and substitution of product, false declaration of origin or durability date.

- Fish: substitution by cheaper species or lower quality fish, misdescription of origin especially for salmon, import of illegally treated tuna, fraudulent use of official certification in UK, and impact of Brexit on Scottish supply chain.

- Shellfish: illegally harvested shellfish, misrepresentation of quality and origin of shellfish, falsification of registration and landing documents, and   use of modern slavery and exploitation for harvesting shellfish.

- Alcoholic drinks: counterfeit branded spirits and wine, import or smuggling of fake vodka, production of illicit alcohol, and import and use of material and equipment to produce imitation alcohol products.

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Olive oil, especially extra virgin oilive oil (EVOO), is highly valued for its organoleptic and nutritional qualities. In this study, more than 200 monovarietal (Koroneiki) EVOO samples were collected from the main Greek olive oil producing regions. They were analysed using Flow Injection Analysis-Magnetic Resonance Mass Spectrometry (FIA-MRMS), which directly injects the oil into the mass spectrometer, to determine a metabolite profile. In parallel, the same oils were analysed using an LC-Orbitrap MS (Liquid Chromatograpy-Mass Spectrometry) platform to verify the efficiency of the method, as well as a tool to increase the identification confidence of the proposed markers.  The results obtained by FIA-MRMS analysis generated improved projection and prediction models in comparison to those of the more established LC-MS methodology. Also with FIA-MRMS, more statistically significant compounds and chemical classes were identified as quality and authenticity markers, which were associated with specific authenticity issues, i.e. geographical region, cultivation practice, and production procedures. 

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Cocoa beans are the raw material for chocolate and chocolate products. There are many authenticity aspects of cocoa in terms of its varietal and geographic origin, and the composition and quality of chocolate, especially substitution of cocoa butter,  that require verification. This review by Spanish researchers gives an  update on the progress toward the authenticity, traceability and sustainability of cocoa products.

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Vanilla is a high value flavouring used in ice cream, desserts and confectionery, and mainly grown in Madagascar. Synthetic vanillin and biovanillin (produced by fermentation) are cheaper. By using SIRA (stable isotope ratio analysis) to look at the δ13C, it is possible to distinguish between the three types of vanilla flavouring. The method was tested on market samples of yoghurt and ic cream. Also FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared) spectoscopy with chemometric analysis was calibrated with authentic samples of black pepper so that it was possible to detect the adulteration of ground black pepper with black pepper husk and defatted spent material. The research was undertaken as a Ph.D registered at the Technical University of Denmark, but carried out at the Danish National Food Institute and IGFS - Queens University Belfast.  

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