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12546419091?profile=RESIZE_400x“Maçã de Alcobaça” Portuguese apples have a Protected Geograpic Indication (PGI).  The PGI encompasses the cultivars Casa Nova, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, Jonagold, Reineta and Pink produced in the defined geographically delimited area and characterised by elevated consistency and crispness, a high percentage of sugar and high acidity, which gives them a bittersweet taste and intense aroma

For authentication analysis, reference databases based upon multivariate elemental composition have been proposed.  There was concern that the databases might be invalidated by permissible changes in the fertilisation regimen.  Such changes are likely, as there is a market demand for high productivity.

In this paper (open access) the authors verified that, in the case of royal gala, the PGI origin could still be verified despite variation between three common fertilisation regimens. Three different soil NPK fertilisation schemes were applied to experimental orchards within the PGI area (1 x mineral NPK proposed for integrated production, an intermediate strategy that included organic granular amendment and 2 x mineral NPK), and the elemental profiles of the apple pulps were analysed and compared.

The researchers found that some mineral elements improved their concentration in the apple pulps with fertilisation due to interactions of these elements with the fertiliser components (namely, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus) or to potential changes in the bioavailability of the elements in the soil due to fertilisation application. This gave subtle differences in the nutritional profile of the apples.  However, they found that this variation did not impede the ability of discriminating PGI from non-PGI (from North Portugal and Italy) equivalents using previously-developed models. This reinforces the edaphic characteristics of the cultivation area's prevalent role over the effect of fertilisation practices or physiological trait changes, in shaping the elemental signature of the fruits. This was found to be mostly due to the high influence of geologically linked elements (such as Rb, Pb and Y) in the discrimination of the sample provenance.

They concluded that the previously-developed classification models for “Maçã de Alcobaça” PGI authenticity analysis remained robust even if fertilisation practices are applied to fight less favourable cultivation conditions.

Photo by Matheus Cenali on Unsplash

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The Joint Research Centre of the European Commission have published their monthly collation of food fraud reports here.  Thanks to FAN member Bruno Sechet who has again collated these as an infographic.  The original infographic is on Bruno's LinkedIn feed.

The JRC collation uses global media reports, and this always gives a slightly different picture than collating official reports.  FAN's recent report gives a high-level annual overview for 2023.  But, whatever source of information, food businesses should always remember that there are limitations to such general collations and league-tables of "most fraudulent foods".  They are only the first part of the risk assessment evidence.  The more pertinent question is the specific risks in your own supply chain; the companies and ingredient sources that you purchase from.

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12544091058?profile=RESIZE_584xIn this study (purchase required), near-infrared spectroscopy coupled with chemometrics was validated to authenticate oat flour (from different forms of oat; oat groats, steel-cut and rolled oats) and distinguish it from common adulterants including wheat, farro, triticale, barley, rye, and ryegrass. Both unsupervised and supervised chemometric methodologies (PCA, SIMCA, and OPLS-DA) were applied. The authors reported that both SIMCA and OPLS-DA models displayed 100% sensitivity, enabling reliable identification of oat flour and detection of potential adulteration with specificity of 97.78% and 100%, respectively. Using SIMCA, samples of oat groat flour with low levels (1% and 2%) adulteration were incorrectly classified as unadulterated, but successful discrimination was achieved through the OPLS-DA model. They reported that PLS regression analysis could quantify the levels of these adulterants.

The authors validated their models using over 200 in-house test samples prepared from cereals grown at an agricultural research station.  The technique was fast, non-invasive, relatively cheap and suitable for in-line use. 

Graphical abstract from the paper.

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12212937491?profile=RESIZE_400xThere are many options for analytical techniques to authenticate edible oils.  One which is less frequently reported is Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC).  DSC measures the thermal properties of a sample as it is heated or cooled through phase transitions, and so is an indirect reflection of its fat composition.  Although crude in comparison to some analytical techniques, and unsuitable for complex mixtures, DSC has the advantage of being relatively cheap, rugged, and routinely available in laboratories that are not specialist in food authenticity testing.

This paper (open access) reviews recent applications of DSC for edible oil authentication, both with and without the use of chemometrics.  Most publications cited could detect the addition at 10% and above of cheaper oils to “premium” oils such as avocado or sesame.  There were also publications that could differentiate between cultivars (and, hence, origin) of extra virgin olive oil.  The authors concluded that DSC is a valuable weapon in the authenticity testing armoury.

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One of the most difficult challenges in authenticity analysis is verifying the species of an ingredient or component in processed products where little or no intact DNA might remain.  Verifying tuna species in processed products (e.g. canned tuna) has been a perennial problem.

This paper (purchase require) sets out to address the problem by discovering and validating species-specific peptides for distinguishing three commercial tropical tuna species. The peptides derived from trypsin digestion were separated and detected using ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography-quadrupole-time of flight mass spectrometry (UPLC-Q-TOF/MS) in data-dependent acquisition (DDA) mode. Venn analysis showed that there were differences in peptide composition among the three tested tuna species. Screening through the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (NCBI BLAST) revealed 93 candidate peptides. Finally, the detection specificity of species-specific peptides of raw meats and processed products was carried out by multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) mode based on a Q-Trap mass spectrometer. The results showed that three, one and two peptides of Katsuwonus pelamis, Thunnus obesus and Thunnus albacores, respectively could serve as species markers.

Graphical abstract from the paper

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12538899685?profile=RESIZE_180x18012538900256?profile=RESIZE_400xWe are pleased to acknowledge the expertise of two more specialist authenticity testing laboratories and add them to our Centres of Expertise network. 

 

 

  • University of East Anglia
  • Chelab (Tentamus TCF2) GmbH

As well as providing incident-response support to the UK government and facilitating a laboratory network to share analytical best practice, we hope that our CoE listings help our (non-analyst) members to navigate to laboratories that could help with specific issues.  Recognition as a CoE is not an endorsement by FAN, and the list is not an exclusive or exhaustive guide to commercial laboratory capabilities, but it is an acknowledgment of existing expertise and capability in highly specialist areas.

If you are a laboratory interested in applying then look out for ther 2024 call in our Newsletter later this month.

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12537617273?profile=RESIZE_400xIn this paper (open access), researchers used analysis of the stable-isotope nitrogen ratio (SIRA) within specific compounds, as a refinement of the total nitrogen stable-isotope measurement technique, to differentiate products made from wheat grown in organic fertiliser compared to conventional fertiliser.  They used paired samples to demonstrate the concept (control samples, where the only difference between each pair is the wheat fertiliser regime) and have not tried the technique on market samples.  They found that δ15N analysis of specific compounds (particularly leucine and proline) gave better discrimination in processed products than total δ15N analysis, although the absolute isotope ratios were significantly impacted by the processing.

The authors added a further weight of evidence by analysing the paired samples for mycotoxins (organic wheat in general has more mycotoxin contamination than conventional, and some mycotoxins are stable to processing) and pesticide residues analysis.

For FAN’s explainer of SIRA principles, see here.

Photo by Vyshnavi Bisani on Unsplash

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This paper (open access) reports the results of a structured survey of Finnish food businesses; both how they mitigate fraud risks at a corporate level and – separately – how employees view fraud risks and culture within their own company.

The first survey was targeted at representatives of Finnish food businesses operating in food production, wholesalers, and central firms (N = 98). While many food business operators (FBOs) had experience of fraudulent practices, they often thought that their businesses were well prepared to prevent food fraud. The businesses used different methods in assessing the reliability of their suppliers, such as buying from familiar businesses and using networks to gain information, but public registers, such as the Tax debt register, were rarely used.

The second survey targeting the employees of ten Finnish food production businesses (N = 691) underwent logistic regression analysis. Differences in perceived possibility of internal fraud in the business, organizational integrity, and wrongness of certain fraudulent practices were found based on respondent and business characteristics. Specialists and directors less often fully agreed on the possibility of internal fraud than workers. In addition, specialists, directors and experienced employees reported high organizational integrity more often than workers and less experienced employees.

The results highlight that food businesses should take notice of both external and internal food fraud prevention by thoroughly assessing the food fraud risks in their operations and enforcing good organizational culture.

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12490630863?profile=RESIZE_710xThis paper (open access) reviews trends in EU RASFF notifications for Sudan dye adulteration of palm oil.  Although there was a sharp decrease in cases after the issue was first reported in 2004, and widespread testing introduced, the problem has not gone away and reported incidents have stayed steady for nearly 20 years.  The economic motivation to disguise cheaper oils as palm oil using a red dye is perennial.  Much of the adulterated produce originates from West Africa, and there is evidence that the problem is worst for palm oil on the local market than for exports.

The authors recommend cheaper, portable tests such as NIR as alternatives to traditional laboratory testing that can be used for verification.  Although detection limits and confidence in identification cannot match techniques such as LC-MSMS, NIR can detect around 0.01-0.05% which is sufficient for economically-motivated adulteration in the crude palm oil.

Chart from the paper

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We have launched a new section to our website - Analytical Technique Explainers.  You can find it under the Research & Methods section.

The aim is to explain some of the more common methods used for food authenticity testing in language that a typical food industry Technical Manager can understand.  To give them context by which they can both choose appropriate test methods and interpret results certificates.  We would value your feedback on whether we have achieved this, and whether the explainers could be improved in either pitch or content.  We do not expect them to hit the mark first time, and expect an iterative process of improvement.

We will be adding more methods over the next few weeks.  The first to go live are Mass Spectrometry and Stable Isotope Ratio Analysis. Content was written by Mark Woolfe, for whom this turned into a Labour of Love, and reviewed by scientists from our Centres of Expertise laboratories and we are extremely grateful for their in-kind time contributions.

These explainers were one of the priorities identified by our Funding Partners and we are grateful to them for funding their development.  If you would like to join our funding partners then please get in touch.

A video guide on how to navigate to the new page is here. (on my website, as exceeds file size for FAN site)

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12439413862?profile=RESIZE_400xThe most common method for detecting the fraudulent dilution of vinegar with synthetic acetic acid is SNIF-NMR.  Discrimination relies upon marginal differences in the stable isotope ratio of atoms at certain positions within the acetic acid molecular structure, dependent upon the synthetic pathway of the molecule.  SNIF-NMR requires large sample sizes and long preparation times, and lacks transferability between laboratories.

Researchers have published (purchased required) an alternative method to discriminate acetic acid on a similar basis but using GC-pyrolysis-IRMS, using a sample preparation protocol that mitigates the problem of isotope-exchange with water.  Although this method still uses specialist expensive laboratory equipment it is faster and more sensitive than SNIF-NMR.  The authors consider the two methods to be complementary for building a body of analytical evidence.

Graphical abstract from the paper

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12438086074?profile=RESIZE_400xUnder new UK legislation, coming into force later this year, organisations will be liable for fraud conducted by their employees or agents.  This can be employees or agents at any level of seniority.  Fines are potentially unlimited -  a similar law already applies to failure to prevent bribery, and a recent corporate fine was over £400m.  At the same time, the Serious Fraud Office has signalled an intent to become more proactive under new leadership.  There has already been evidence of this in other industries, with a recent increase in dawn raids on both business premises and the homes of Directors.

There is a “due diligence” defence against this new Failure to Prevent Fraud offence, and companies are advised to act now to ensure they have best practice mitigation in place.  Good mitigation is the type of practical steps that are emphasised on FAN and all food fraud mitigation guides, including

  • Review compliance policies and procedures to address gaps in relation to fraud offences
  • Ensure portfolio companies have sufficient oversight/controls over their agents and other third-party intermediaries
  • Provide training on fraud risks to staff so they are alert to “red flags”
  • Encourage staff to speak up if they have concerns, and provide clear guidance on how they can report issues

(from Latham & Watkins legal blog)

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

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FAN 2023 Global Food Fraud Report

12437559458?profile=RESIZE_710xHeadlines:

  • Food fraud reports published by global regulatory agencies during 2023 do not provide evidence of a consistent, significant trend during 2023.
  • The activity associated with official food fraud and food safety reports remained fairly consistent across the four quarters of 2023.
  • The top three commodities with the most food fraud reports varies depending on the source of reports and the tool used:
  • Using official reports only, ‘Fruit, vegetables & legumes’, ‘Milk & diary products’ and ‘Beverages’ are the top three.   
  • Using official, media & peer reviewed publication reports, ‘Honey’, ‘Herbs & Spices’ and ‘Meat & Poultry’ are the top three.
  • The number of official food fraud reports published, by an average of thirty-six sources, is very low at only ~9% of food safety reports.
  • Botanical origin fraud was the most reported type of food fraud in 2023, followed by dilution or substitution, and animal origin fraud.

FAN has collaborated with the providers of three leading commercial food fraud incident collation tools (FoodChain ID Food Fraud Database, HorizonScan and Safety HUD) to produce this report, which provides a summary of global food fraud reports in 2023. This report is the first annual report to be produced for this FAN Partner project. 

We are grateful to our Partners (McCormick & Company, Dr Ehrenstorfer and LGC Axio, Tenet Compliance & Litigation, the Food Industry Intelligence Network, the Institute of Food Science & Technology, SSAFE, Tesco, and BRCGS (LGC Assure)) for funding this work.

For 2024, Gold and Platinum FAN Partners will be sent a quarterly dashboard at the end of each quarter.

Read full report.

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12435705879?profile=RESIZE_710xResearchers have evaluated recent developments in nutrition science, analytical technology and the continuing evolution of statutory regulations and conclude that most current international reference methods are no longer fit-for-purpose to accurately determine vitamin content in foods and food supplements.

They recommend that new and/or updated reference methods and regulatory standards should be considered for the analysis of vitamins A, D, E, K, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12, C and carotenoids in foods and food supplements.

They also state that this area of nutrients may benefit from globally harmonised definitions specifying what compounds to include or exclude for analysis, and applicable bioactivity factors. 

Read open access paper: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2024.139383

Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 
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12434804476?profile=RESIZE_180x180The US Department for Justice has launched a pilot prosecution immunity protocol for corporate fraud whistleblowers.  It only applies to the first report received, so is intended to be an incentive for a “race to report”.   Lisa Monaco, Deputy Attorney General, phrased it as “When everyone needs to be first in the door, no one wants to be second – regardless of whether they’re an innocent whistleblower, a potential defendant looking to minimize criminal exposure, or the audit committee of a company where the misconduct took place.”  In order to qualify for the scheme

  • An individual must voluntarily self-disclose original and non-public information about criminal misconduct.
  • The information must relate to one of six types of violations committed by financial institutions or public or private companies, including money laundering, the integrity of financial markets, foreign corruption and bribery, healthcare fraud and illegal kickbacks, fraud related to federally funded contracting, and the payment of bribes or kickbacks to public officials.
  • The information must be truthful and complete,
  • The individual must fully cooperate with the DOJ in its investigation and prosecution, including by providing testimony and evidence.
  • The individual must forfeit any profit from the misconduct and pay restitution or victim compensation.
  • Certain individuals are ineligible for the pilot, including chief executive officers, chief financial officers and their equivalents.

Photo by Nathan Shively on Unsplash

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12434512887?profile=RESIZE_400xIn this publication (open access) the authors studied 22 types of commonly traded herbal spices belonging to 20 different genera and 21 species comprising 14 families.  They examined them macroscopically and organoleptically as well as by microscope.

They provide details and photographs to characterise samples including appearance, taste, odor, color, shape, size, fractures, types of trichomes, and the presence of lenticels.  These features are useful for the detection of both natural as well as artificial deterioration.

In terms of microscopic characterization, each plant part has different anatomical characteristics with taxonomic importance and also provides useful information for authentication from natural adulterants.  They include different herbal parts such as leaves, floral buds, seeds, fruit, and accessory parts like mericarp, rhizome, bulbs, and bark, as commercially traded. Similarly the authors have observed and published features of the leaves of Cinnamomum tamala and Mentha spicata, the floral buds of Syzygium aromaticum, the seeds of Amomum subulatum, Brassica nigra, Punica granatum, Myristica fragrans, Phyllanthus emblica, and Elettaria cardamomum, the mericarp of Coriandrum sativum, and Cuminum cyminum.

Image – mustard seed, from the publication.

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12433103090?profile=RESIZE_400xThis paper (open access) describes the development of a new sorbent to extract tartrazine from fake saffron in a 1-step procedure.  Extraction was by dispersive micro- Solid Phase Extraction using a novel metal–organic framework containing iron single atoms doped on electrospun carbon nanofibers.  Tartrazine could then be measured by HPLC with Photo Diode Array detection; a widely available and relatively cheap technique.

The authors optimised the extraction conditions and reported that the calibration curve was linear in the range of 5–1000 ng/mL, with a correlation coefficient of 0.992. The LOD and LOQ values ranged 0.38–0.74 and 1.34–2.42 ng/ml, respectively. They concluded that advantages of this method included high extraction recovery (98%), and accuracy (RSDs < 0.75 to 3.6%). with enrichment factors in the range of 80.6–86.4 with preconcentration factor of 22.3.

Photo by mana5280 on Unsplash

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Wireless gas-sensing technology can be utilized to monitor food freshness in real time to prevent food fraud and spoiled food consumption.  Nanoflake sensors have the advantage over traditional gas sensors that they do not need excessive heat or power consumption, making them ideal for such real-time applications.  There are sensors available for many nitrogen-containing gaseous indicators of spoilage, including reduced graphene oxide (rGO) which is selective for ammonia.

In this work (open access) the authors coupled a high-sensitivity ammonia gas sensor with Bluetooth technology to produce a wireless communication system for live tracking beef freshness. They used a chemiresistive gas sensor containing hydrothermally produced sulfur-rich WS2/rGO hierarchical nanoflakes for gas sensing in real time. This nanohybrid was evaluated using various physicochemical techniques, including XRD analysis, HR-SEM, FE-TEM, FTIR spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and XPS.

They reported that the sensitivity of the sulfur-rich WS2/rGO nanohybrid towards NH3 was twice as high as that of pristine sulfur-rich WS2 with an LOD of 0.5 ppb and a response of 7.5%. The NH3-sensing mechanism was attributed to a negative charge donated by NH3 on the positively charged sulfur-rich WS2/rGO composite, which enabled it to interact with certain functional groups (SO3H, –OH, and H2O) and enhanced the resistance of the material. The composite had a 3.7-fold greater response to NH3 than to other volatile organic compounds and good stability after 25 cycles.

They concluded that the system was practical for real-time monitoring of beef in the supply chain and, coupled with AI, could be used to detect anomalies (i.e. indicators of fraud)

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Thanks, as always, for FAN member Bruno Sechet for collating the JRC’s monthly collation of global food fraud media reports into this helpful infographic.

The original JCR report can be found here.  It is free to sign up for alerts when each new report is published.

It is important to remember that these are media reports.  Analysis of official reports often gives a different picture.  EU official reports of “suspicions” are now published here, and FAN will soon be sharing our analysis of global trends in official reports.

Shockingly it is still the case that, although food authenticity often is seen through the prism on technical compliance in many large food manufacturing companies, food adulteration can be a matter of life or death in local produce in some parts of the world.

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