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12311303274?profile=RESIZE_400xThis article (open access) provides an overview of the Nigerian meat industry, explores specific cases of meat fraud, and discusses authentication methods used in neighbouring African countries.  It offers insights for Nigerian researchers and the government.  The meat industry in Nigeria encompasses a range of sources, with beef taking precedence and also including chicken, chevon, mutton and pork.  Reported frauds are frequent, particularly the deliberate sale of meat unfit for consumption.  Frequent frauds also include the undeclared tenderising of processed meat using paracetamol (a food safety hazard) or soda drinks. The authors conclude that Nigerian meat products are highly vulnerable to fraudulent practices, stemming in part from consumer preferences for cost-effective items and the limited coordination within the meat sector due to the absence of robust enforcement in areas such as product metrology, sales, and packaging.  They recommend that the Nigerian regulatory authorities adopt best practice from other countries, including neighbouring African countries.

Photo by Syed Hussaini on Unsplash

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12311300890?profile=RESIZE_400xThis conference paper (purchase required) describes the development of a successful non-destructive test to discriminate 20 varieties of Indian wheat as either hard or soft wheat.  The authors used near-infrared (NIR) hyperspectral imaging (spectral range 900–1700 nm) on a reference set of authentic samples. Data images were taken from both sides of the seed (ventral and dorsal side). The dataset included images of 20,160 seeds. The authors compared results from 5 different machine learning models. The models were trained using the mean spectral values extracted from the hyperspectral images. They also tried 5 different pre-processing techniques.  They evaluated each model’s performance for both raw and preprocessed data.  They found that the optimum model achieved a classification accuracy rate of 95.01% for amalgamated data (encompassing both ventral and dorsal side data), 95.05% for exclusively ventral side data, and 95.37% for exclusively dorsal side data.

Photo by Craig Manners on Unsplash

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Review – Serious Food Fraud Incidents in Asia

12310480856?profile=RESIZE_400xThis review (open access) highlights serious detrimental food fraud cases originating in Asian countries, including sibutramine in dietary supplements, plasticizer contamination, gutter oil, and the adulteration of milk. The analysis encompasses various facets, such as incident occurrences, adverse health effects, regulatory frameworks, and mitigation strategies.  It is intended to be of particular use to readers in Asia who do not have access to subscription-based fraud databases or insight trends.  It concludes that establishing a global real time alert system is critical for safeguarding the food industry from fraud and adulteration, and reducing public health and safety risks. To foster long-term prevention, it would be beneficial for underlying economic issues to be addressed and resolved at the national and/or international level.

Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash

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12309451865?profile=RESIZE_710xThe modern food industry is a rapidly evolving sector with complex supply chains that utilises a wide variety of analytical tools to support food integrity and authenticity.

Next Generation Sequencing (NGS)-based approaches represent an emerging analytical technology that is growing within the food sector, providing  the potential to not only screen and test input materials, but also the production process and end products. 

Photo by Braňo on Unsplash

This questionnaire is part of a UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) funded project tasked with reviewing the application of NGS technology to food authenticity testing and supporting harmonisation and the development of standards for NGS approaches applicable to the verification of food authenticity. The questionnaire is targeted at individuals involved in the food and associated diagnostics sectors, including technology developers, suppliers and official controls.

Your participation in this questionnaire will directly help inform the direction of the project and contribute to guidance within the sector.

Please do not provide any information that could be used to identify you. Thank you for participating in our questionnaire which should only take around 15 minutes to complete. Your feedback is important.

Access questionnaire.

We would be very grateful if you could complete the questionnaire by 5 January 2024.
Thank you for participating in this questionnaire.

UK National Measurement Laboratory at LGC

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Towards an aptamer-based test for pork protein?

12305630473?profile=RESIZE_400xAptamers are short, single stranded sections of DNA or RNA that can selectively bind to a protein or similar biochemical molecule.  They are, theoretically, an ideal basis for species tests; unlike PCR, they could underpin a test for highly processed products that was also faster, cheaper, and more suited for point-of-use kits.

To date, there is no published porcine-specific aptamer that is specifically bound to a heat-stable protein. This study (purchase required) has taken some important steps along the way, but also highlights the challenges.  The authors screened, characterised and validated aptamers bound to any pork protein through the SELEX process, combined with Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) and Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS) analysis. The putative porcine-specific aptamers were selected after fourteen rounds of selection using centrifugal-ultrafiltration separation technique against five negative controls. The best candidate had a binding affinity with a dissociation constant of 27.61 ± 1.92 nM.  However, the selected porcine-bound aptamers were not specific and could also bind to multiple proteins from negative samples. LC-MS analysis showed that the aptamers bound to troponin and tropomyosin subunits, and these proteins have potential as target markers for future authentication studies. The authors conclude that future research could develop aptamers with higher specificity towards porcine protein which could be used as a practical tool for food authentication in real meat-based food samples.

Photo by Mark Basarab on Unsplash

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12305240855?profile=RESIZE_400xBasmati rice is a defined term in the UK with a strict technical specification and legally-established trading goodwill. In 2017 an EU trademark application was made to use “Basmati” on a rice variety that does not meet this specification.  The application was supported by the EU Intellectual Property Office.  The application was opposed by a UK rice importer acting as a proxy for the Indian government export agency (because the Indian government has no direct recourse to the EU courts).  The case is still ongoing and is now complicated by the fact that – since EU exit – it could also be argued that the UK proxy has no recourse to the EU courts.

The EU Advocate General has just ruled that the objectors have a valid case and that they still have recourse to the EU courts.  The case can proceed to the Courts of Justice.

Read the analysis by the legal team acting for the Indian government’s representative here

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12304302875?profile=RESIZE_400xThis review article assesses meat authentication techniques based on DNA, protein, and metabolite fingerprints of animal meat species for their applicability to cultured meat.  Theu authors discuss areas in the cultured meat industry that are vulnerable to food fraud. They consider that none of the traditional techniques adequately addresses all of the authentication questions likely to be asked.

The authors recommend the identification of markers (both physical and biochemical) to differentiate conventional meat from cultured meat in order to ensure overall product traceability.  Technique-based categorization of cultured meat products could ease the identification of appropriate authentication methods.

The authors conclude that novel technologies for novel foods, such as cultured meat, need a different approach in terms of authentication methods. The increasing production efficiencies of cultured meat companies should be coupled with increasing regulatory support to protect them from the threat of sham products undermining their market. Cultured meat authentication is essential and must be considered because, in the future, these gaps may be bridged by technological advancements, increasing the similarities between conventional and cultured meats

A standards-based approach for cultured meat authentication would create a safer future for all stakeholders and help prevent food fraud. This could also lead to the increased acceptability of cultured meat and meat products by validating claims and labels.

Photo by Ivy Farm on Unsplash

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12299674074?profile=RESIZE_710xThe United Kingdom Food Security Report (UKFSR) sets out an analysis of statistical data relating to food security by examining past, current, and predicted relevant trends to present the best available understanding of food security.

The UK Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) published the first UKFSR on 16 December 2021 and is now planning the production of the next UKFSR, which will be published in the second half of 2024.

Defra is currently seeking users' views on the content of the 2024 UKFSR.

As with the 2021 report, the next report will cover 5 themes:

  • Theme 1: Global availability
  • Theme 2: UK food supply sources
  • Theme 3: Supply chain resilience
  • Theme 4: Food security at household level
  • Theme 5: Food safety and consumer confidence.

Please help Defra to improve the next report by answering a few short questions on these themes, and the report as a whole, by 15 December 2023Access Defra questionnaire.

Thank you!

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12299643688?profile=RESIZE_400xThis review article covers the use of low-cost point-of-use molecular biology methods for meat speciation testing;  methods such as loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) or gold nanoparticles linked with oligonucleotides. Such methods are currently more widely used in clinical applications than in authenticity testing but there have been recent publications showing use for meat speciation. The authors conclude that the introduction of these new DNA technologies has facilitated the ease and accuracy of fraud detection. These closed-tube methods (“molecular probes”) are robust and highly sensitive for the specific amplification of target DNA and are also rapid, low-cost and available on site.

This review provides an overview of the molecular methods developed that can be applied for investigating ground meat adulteration and focuses on the advantages of the rapid closed tube methods that can yield colour results interpreted with the naked eye. The application of such time- and cost-effective molecular tools in the food market is proposed to provide a first-level filter for meat adulterated products, serving as a complementary tool to the more in-depth -omics approach.

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12299292655?profile=RESIZE_400xThis paper explores the potential of blockchain technology in promoting sustainable food production and consumption (SFPC) from a consumer perspective in India.  Consumer confidence has been shaken by food safety concerns alongside unexpected events like COVID-19 and geopolitical conflicts. In recent times, consumer focus has shifted a lot towards food safety and security. The study adopted exploratory factor analysis (EFA) to identify the factors strengthening consumer trust through blockchain technology. The EFA helped classify the items into five factors, i.e., reliability, sustainability, impact on health, trust, and switching intentions. The results reveal that these factors are the most significant reasons consumers are willing to accept a blockchain-enabled food system over a traditional system. The study findings will benefit organisations willing to introduce blockchain within their operations to improve the consumer base. It will also prove to be helpful for researchers and academicians to understand consumer perspectives towards blockchain for SFPC.

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12299219472?profile=RESIZE_400xThis feasibility study (purchase required) showed that lipid profiling can discriminate lamb breed and also (unlike stable isotope or elemental profile) the cut of meat.  The authors used Ninxia Tan sheep, a premium breed in China, as proof of concept.  They measured a large panel of lipids in reference populations of authentic and inauthentic breeds and cuts.  They then assessed different Machine Learning protocols for feature selection. 

1230 molecules across 29 lipid classes were identified in longissimus dorsi and knuckle meat of both Tan sheep and Bahan crossbreed sheep. Applying multivariate statistical methods, 12 lipid molecules were identified as potential markers for breed and and 7 as potential markers for the cut of meat. Stepwise linear discriminant analysis was applied to select 3 and 4 lipid molecules, respectively, for discriminating lamb breed and cut, achieving correct rates of discrimination of 100 % and 95 %.

They conclude that back-propagation neural network was superior to other machine learning approaches for this application. Integrating lipidomics with back-propagation neural network approach can provide an effective strategy to trace and certify lamb products, ensuring their quality and protecting consumer rights.

Photo by Pinaak Kumar on Unsplash

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12293454853?profile=RESIZE_400xIn this article the authors analysed the last decade of RASFF alerts relating to adulterated and unauthorised supplements and discussed the potential health impacts.  They conclude that health concerns rise in parallel with the rise in the popularity and market availability of these products.  

The most frequent pharmaceuticals for the adulteration of food supplements were phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors (235 records); anorexics and laxatives (76), including sibutramine and its active metabolite N-didesmethyl sibutramine, phenolphthalein and 2,4-dinitrophenol.  There were also stimulants, among which 1,3-dimethylamine (97), and synephrine (53) were the most numerous.  Also included were nootropic drugs (24); anabolics and prohormones (16); and cannabinoid cannabidiol (14) (pending authorization as a novel food ingredient).

Over 65% of these notifications were classified as serious risks, and over 80% of these were alert or border rejection notifications, mainly generated as a result of official control on the market.

The authors recommend that a harmonized nutrivigilance system should be considered as a tool to detect and scrutinize the adverse health effects of food supplements, along with measures to improve their safety, quality, and testing.

Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

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12293087460?profile=RESIZE_584xThe last decade has witnessed significant advances in analytical technologies with the capabilities to support food integrity and authenticity testing within the rapidly evolving food industry. Devices that allow diagnostic tests to be performed at or near the point of need, often termed Point-of-contact (POC), represent a growing area within the food sector with the potential to provide real-time monitoring of input materials and production process. POC devices can range from handheld spectroscopic devices such as Raman and FT-IR instruments to desktop portable systems inclusive of compact mass spectrometry, NMR and next generation sequencing (NGS) systems.

The National Measurement Laboratory at LGC are leading on an UK Food Standards Agency funded project investigating the utility and potential of POC technologies in the food sector and have devised this questionnaire to support the evidence building phase of the project. The questionnaire is targeted at individuals involved in the food supply and allied sectors, including primary production, supply, manufacturing and enforcement/regulations.
Your participation in this questionnaire will directly help inform the direction of the project and contribute to guidance within the sector:
The questionnaire should only take around 15 minutes to complete - please do not provide any information that could be used to identify you.
We would be very grateful if you could complete the questionnaire by 4 December 2023.
Thank you for participating in this questionnaire.

UK National Measurement Laboratory at LGC

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12293035285?profile=RESIZE_400xIn this study (open access) the authors developed a chemometric model to discriminate adulterated maple syrup.  Spectral measurement was by Attenuated Total Reflectance FTIR with data then processed using Principle Component Analysis.  The authors built their reference library from 69 authentic samples obtained directly from producers and further verified by an expert sensory panel.  They prepared in-house adulterated samples by mixing in sugars from three of 15 cheaper sources at proportions from 5% to 25% giving a total library of 667 adulterated and non-adulterated reference samples. Spectra from these samples were used to build six libraries and three models. They developed a method to perform a qualitative library search using a similarity search, based on the first derivative correlation search algorithm.

 Of the four Canadian classes of Grade A maple syrup, the model could discriminate with high confidence adulteration in “golden” and “amber” syrups but was less specific for  “dark” or “very dark” classes.

 Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash

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12291591875?profile=RESIZE_180x180This Commission overview report describes how Competent Authorities in Member States deliver their obligations to combat food fraud under Article 9(2) of the Official Control Regulations (2017/625).

It outlines how Member States fight fraud along the agri-food chain. Fraud in the agri-food chain affects industry and consumers economically, undermines consumer trust and may lead to serious health issues. The EU has recognised the importance of tackling fraudulent and deceptive practices in the agri-food chain and since 2019 Member States are required to carry out risk-based controls to detect fraudulent and deceptive practices. The Commission carried out a project between 2020 and 2022 to collect information on the new arrangements put in place by Member States to fight fraud in the agri-food chain. Based on this project, the Commission has published an overview report which focuses on eight Member States and how their competent authorities developed control arrangements and strategies to combat fraudulent practices. It presents the challenges, opportunities, and several good practice examples in relation to fraud related controls in the Member States.

This report follows a Technical Guidance Document published in March 2023, to support Member States in their efforts to combat fraud within the agri-food supply chain. This guidance document clearly outlines how to uniformly interpret and apply the respective EU laws in the context of fighting food fraud. It was highlighted in a previous FAN blog in April and has been published on the following website:

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12289129058?profile=RESIZE_710xKey findings for 2022
2022 was a deeply challenging year for consumers. Food prices rose at a faster rate than inflation for much of the year and were accompanied by sharp increases in other household expenses, adding to the strain on people’s finances. Overall spending on in-home food reduced by 6.9% in 2022 compared to 2021. Oils and spreads, dairy and alternatives, and fish, eggs, meat and other proteins experienced faster price rises than other Eatwell Guide food groups - all of them essential elements in many people’s diets. FSA and FSS focus group research showed people across a wide range of income brackets were making compromises such as swapping out premium brands for budget ranges or eating out less in a bid to cut costs.

A record number of households – one in five across England, Wales and Northern Ireland – were classified as food insecure in 2022, meaning that their diet and/or food intake had been limited in some way due to their financial or personal circumstances. Similar evidence of increased food insecurity can be seen in Scottish data. A minority of people across the UK also reported cutting corners on food preparation and hygiene, including reducing their use of fridges and freezers or reducing the length of time they cooked their food, to reduce energy bills.

The global food system had to adapt to abrupt shifts in trading patterns as traditional supply lines were disrupted for some commodities. Though the available data from border checks does not indicate any shift in the safety of goods arriving from outside the EU, the UK has increased the number of high-risk foods now subject to enhanced checks at the border, partly in response to concerns about pesticide residues and other toxins in products from certain countries. As EU imports are not currently checked, we cannot comment authoritatively on the safety of goods arriving from the EU.

As we develop new trading partnerships, FSA and FSS will continue to advise government on whether new free trade agreements (FTAs) uphold statutory food safety protections. To support the public’s interest in understanding the wider production values of imported food, FSA and FSS are also exploring how to address the lack of robust, international data on issues such as animal welfare and environmental and ethical production standards.

Although food businesses have also experienced sharp rises in their costs, the latest inspection data suggests this has not translated into any detectable reduction in compliance with food hygiene standards. Based on the latest inspection data as at the end of 2022, the vast majority of food businesses had met food hygiene standards at the point when they were last inspected.

Meanwhile the number of local authority inspections carried out returned to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels in 2022. This is an important milestone, but it should be noted there were still approximately 39,500 unrated businesses at the end of 2022 across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Adequate resourcing is vital for ensuring food hygiene rules are upheld, but the FSA’s analysis of local authority staffing shows there are approximately 14% fewer food safety posts being funded across England, Wales and Northern Ireland compared to a decade ago – and even where these posts do exist, over 13% are vacant.

The situation in Scotland is more pronounced, where there are 25% fewer food safety posts than in 2016. There have also been reductions in food standards and food law officer posts across the UK, further challenging the ability of local authorities to carry out essential checks on food authenticity, composition and information standards. In 2022, both FSA and FSS had to take additional measures to address the ongoing resourcing challenges being faced by the veterinary profession – particularly in the recruitment of Official Veterinarians (OVs).

Analysis of reported food incidents and foodborne disease outbreaks, the results of national sampling programmes delivered by FSA, FSS and Defra, and the available intelligence on food crime do not suggest there has been any significant change in food safety and authenticity standards during 2022. However, we are concerned about ongoing breaches in food composition labelling in relation to allergens. To address this, further collaboration with local
authorities and food businesses will be required. 

Read full report.

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12288176867?profile=RESIZE_400xIn this study (purchase required) bulk isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) combined with multivariate analysis was used to develop a model to identify the geographical origin of rice and authenticate different rice cultivars from Pakistan. The authors reported significant statistical differences for δ13C, δ15N, δ2H and δ18O isotopes amongst different basmati and non-basmati rice cultivars. δ2H and δ18O values showed a larger variation between basmati and non-basmati rice cultivars. Multivariate ANOVA showed a significant influence on rice from different regions, cultivars and their stable isotopic values.

The researchers constructed supervised classification models (LDA and PLS-DA) to assess origin. They found that the PLS-DA model achieved a the best classification accuracy at around 70 – 80%.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

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A recent thesis from the Universita di Padova involved an analysis of patterns and trends from all food fraud and adulterations reported in the RASFF database from 2005 to 2021 (n=2031). The study identified health certificates as the common manipulated aspect in food fraud, representing 40.92% of reported cases. In addition, mislabelling, adulteration, and tampering were common with meat and meat products, whereas document forgery was more frequent with nuts and seeds. Grey market activities were prevalent among dietetic foods, while counterfeiting was primarily observed in soups and sauces.  The United Kingdom emerged as a focal point with 31.8% of all food fraud notifications, followed by Italy (9.0%). China and India were identified as the predominant origins of food fraud, constituting 16.94% and 11.96% of the reported cases, respectively. The study found that nuts, nut products, and seeds accounted for the highest proportion of fraud/adulteration cases at 22.01%. Followed by fruits and vegetables (10.49%), and meat and meat products other than poultry (10.44%).

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