testing (6)

JRC Publishes Food Fraud Report on Spices

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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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Food Fraud: A Global Threat With Public Health and Economic Consequences serves as a practical resource on the topic of food fraud prevention and compliance with regulatory and industry standards.

It includes a brief overview of the history of food fraud, current challenges, and vulnerabilities faced by the food industry, and requirements for compliance with regulatory and industry standards on mitigating vulnerability to food fraud, with a focus on the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Benchmarking Requirements.

The book also provides individual chapters dedicated to specific commodities or sectors of the food industry known to be affected by fraud, with a focus on specific vulnerabilities to fraud, the main types of fraud committed, analytical methods for detection, and strategies for mitigation.

The book provides an overview of food fraud mitigation strategies applicable to the food industry and guidance on how to start the process of mitigating the vulnerability to food fraud. The intended audience for this book includes food industry members, food safety and quality assurance practitioners, food science researchers and professors, students, and members of regulatory agencies.

Food Authenticity Network Members are eligible for a 30% discount by using the code ATR30 at https://www.elsevier.com/books/food-fraud/hellberg/978-0-12-817242-1

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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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The modern food industry is fast moving with complex supply chains that utilises a wide variety of analytical tools to support food integrity and authenticity. 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 the production process. POC devices can range from handheld spectroscopic devices such as Raman and FT-IR instruments to desktop portable systems such as compact mass spectrometry and NMR systems.

A questionnaire looking at POC testing in the food sector has been devised by LGC as part of a Defra funded project (FA0178: Point of Contact Testing) tasked with investigating the application of POC technology to food authenticity testing. The questionnaire is targeted at individuals involved in the food and associated diagnostics sectors, including primary production, supply and manufacturing.

The project team would greatly appreciate your participation in this questionnaire, which will directly help inform the direction of the project and contribute to guidance within the sector.

POC Questionnaire: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/J8L8N3X

We thank you in advance for your assistance and kindly request that the survey is completed by Friday 31st July 2020.

Kind regards

Food Authenticity Network Executive Management Team

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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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IFST has re-written its “Food authenticity testing” Information Statement and split it into two parts:

Food authenticity testing part 1: The role of analysis, which now covers the role of analytical testing within the context of an overall supply chain assurance strategy.

Analytical testing is a valuable tool in the armoury to assure food authenticity but cannot be used to identify every type of food fraud.  It is only one part of an overall strategy to mitigate fraud risk.

Many modern tests are based upon comparing a pattern of measured values in the test sample with patterns from a database of authentic samples. Interpretation is highly dependent on the robustness of the database, and whether it includes all possible authentic variables and sample types. This information may not be released by the laboratory.  Interpretation of results is rarely clear-cut, and analytical results are often used to inform and target further investigation (such as unannounced audits or mass-balance checks) rather than for making a compliance decision.

This paper describes where testing can and cannot be used, and highlights generic issues relating to interpreting food authenticity testing results.

Food authenticity testing part 2: Analytical techniques, which gives describes specific analytical techniques, their applications, strengths and weaknesses.

This paper describes the principles, different configurations, applications, strengths and limitations of some of the more common analytical techniques used in food authenticity testing:
• Mass spectrometry
• Stable isotope mass spectrometry
• DNA analysis
• Nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry
• Spectroscopy.

Generic strengths and limitations of food authenticity test methods, particularly those relating to methods comparing against reference databases of authentic samples, are discussed in “Food authenticity testing: The role of analysis”. It also describes the difference between targeted and untargeted analysis.

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