adulteration (26)

11001991485?profile=RESIZE_710xToday, the European Commission has published the results of the EU-wide coordinated action “From the Hives” on honey contaminated with sugars.

These investigations aimed to put a stop to operators voluntarily placing contaminated honey onto the EU market and sanction them accordingly if needed. Of the 320 samples taken at EU borders and analysed by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), 147 (46%) were suspected of being non-compliant.

This suspicion rate was considerably higher in comparison to an earlier EU-wide coordinated control plan conducted in 2015-17, where 14% of the analysed samples did not comply with established benchmark criteria to assess honey authenticity.

However, the JRC applied a different set of methods, with improved detection capability, throughout the current exercise, which may explain this contrast.

For more information:

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An article published in the I online newspaper reports on the ongoing risk of herbs and spices adulteration.  

Investigators and analysts have told i that the $20bn (£17bn) global herbs and spices industry is being increasingly targeted by organised crime gangs and fraudsters determined to use disruptions to global supply chains, caused by factors from Brexit to Covid-19 to the war in Ukraine, to cash in with fake, adulterated or contaminated products.

This article reviews recent surveillance findings, common adulterants, detection methods and includes comments from the National Food Crime Unit and the Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit.

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Photo by Andrea Leon on Unsplash

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10742783097?profile=RESIZE_400xEVOO is one of the foods lidentified as being very vulnerable to food fraud. This comprehensive review examines the  application of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to EVOO as a reliable and rapid tool to verify different aspects of its adulteration, such as undeclared blends with cheaper oils and cultivar, and geographical origin mislabelling. NMR makes it possible to use both targeted and untargeted approaches, and to determine the olive oil metabolomic profile and the quantification of its constituents.

Read the full open access paper here

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10472462083?profile=RESIZE_400x In the Islamic and Jewish religions certain animals and seafood are forbidden.  Pork is forbidden to eat for both religions, and in Judaism, only animals which have cloven hooves and chew the cud can be consumed. This review looks at the different methods and techniques to determine the species of meat, or meat based ingredients and derived fats in halal/kosher foods. It does not address the other aspect of halal/kosher foods, namely the method of slaughter of the animal.

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In this article, applications of several analytical techniques such as DNA-based techniques, spectrometric techniques, spectroscopic techniques, chromatographic techniques, lateral flow immunoassays, and neutron and proton based nuclear analytical techniques for forensic food analysis are discussed. These techniques are capable of analysing food samples rapidly, and permit the identification of authenticity markers, which are essential in uncovering food fraud. In addition, authenticity analyses of dyes in food, seafood, plant-based food, beverages, and forensic analysis of postmortem viscera are reviewed. 

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Review of Olive Oil Fraud


As a quality oil, olive oil is susceptible to adulteration and fraud. This paper reviews the most common types of fraud in the olive oil sector. The two most common types of fraud recorded are the marketing of virgin olive oil as extra virgin, and marketing olive oil which is a blend of olive oil and  other vegetable oils. Two on-line surveys focused on current and future issues facing  the industry and control laboratories. These revealed the emerging issues of concern with regards to fraud were from the addition of deodorized oil, and from mixing with oil obtained by a second centrifugation of the olive paste (remolido). In addition, the most frequent fraudulent practices are mixing with lower quality olive oils, and giving a false delaration of origin (EU and non-EU). 

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JRC Publishes Food Fraud Report on Spices


The European Commission published today the results of the first coordinated control plan on the authenticity of herbs and spices launched by the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety.

It has been carried out by 21 EU Member States, Switzerland and Norway, with the technical support of the Joint Research Centre, which performed nearly 10,000 analyses. The plan is the largest investigation so far into the authenticity of culinary herbs and spices in terms of participating countries and samples analysed (1885).

The main conclusions were as follows: 

  • The overall rate of suspicious samples was 17% (323 of a total of 1885 analysed samples), which is less than what was previously reported in the scientific literature or by national food control institutions.
  • The oregano supply chain was most vulnerable as 48% of samples were suspicious of being adulterated, in most cases with olive leaves.
  • The percentage of samples which were suspicious of adulteration were 17% for pepper, 14% for cumin, 11% for curcuma, and 11% for saffron.
  • The lowest suspicion rate (6%) was found for paprika/chilli.
  • The majority of suspicious samples contained non-declared plant material; in 2% of the analysed spice samples non-authorised dyes were detected. One sample contained a high level of lead chromate.
  • In two cumin, 45 oregano, and four pepper samples copper compounds above the relevant maximum residue limit set by Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 were found.
  • No specific trend regarding the rate of potential fraudulent manipulations along the supply chain (countries of origin/importers/wholesalers/processors/packagers) could be observed. However, for certain stages (domestic production, local markets, border control, and internet) the number of samples tested was too low to enable statistically meaningful comparisons.

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The increase in consumption of vegan foods has promoted higher production of different plant-based proteins. This study looked at developing a non-invasive and rapid method to determine the authenticity of plant-based protein powders (free of soy, lactose, and gluten), and classify possible adulterants (soya, whey and wheat) in the powders, using FT-NIR (Fourier Transform-Near-Infrared Spectroscopy) and chemometrics. A set of 47 pure plant protein samples were analysed by FT-NIR.  A set of 144 adulterated samples were prepared by adding 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40% (w/w) of each adulterant into pure plant-based protein powder samples, and also analysed. The spectra were analysed chemometrically combining one class and multiclass methods, and it was found that this approach could be successfully used in a range of 10–40% of adulteration, to verify the authenticity of the plant-based protein powders and to classify adulterants into soy, whey, and wheat.

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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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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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Horizon Europe Food Authenticity Calls

9240407881?profile=RESIZE_400xHorizon Europe Cluster 6 Work Programme 2021-2022 on Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment includes two proposed calls related to food authenticty:

  • HORIZON-CL6-2022-FARM2FORK-01-04: Innovative solutions to prevent adulteration of food bearing quality labels: focus on organic food and geographical indications p199
  • HORIZON-CL6-2022-FARM2FORK-01-11: Effective systems for authenticity and traceability in the food system p217

Further information can be found at: wp-9-food-bioeconomy-natural-resources-agriculture-and-environment_horizon-2021-2022_en.pdf (

The commission are also hosting a number of information days that run until 16 July for those who might be interested in preparing a proposal. Homepage | Horizon Europe Info Days 2021 (

This site also contains a document library under each topic with useful information.

For UK specific information visit:


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Lloyds Register surveyed senior executive across the global beverage sector about their supply chain issues and experience of fraud. Of those completing the survey, 97% had been affected by fraud in the past 12 months, and 80% agreed that fraud was a growing concern. Sixty three percent of the respondents were inthe alcoholic beverage sector and 37% in the non-alcoholic sector. When asked to identify the single biggest fraud threat to their business, the respondents were split almost equally between counterfeiting (32%), adulteration (30%) and simulation (designing a product to look very similar to the legitimate product) (30%). 

You can read the reaction of the dairy sector to the report here. The Lloyds Register Report is free, but you have to register to obtain it. 

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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.

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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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