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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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9850054881?profile=originalThe anticipated failure of many countries to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 necessitates the assessment of science–policy engagement mechanisms for food systems transformation. 

A High Level Expert Group (EG) of the European Commission explore options for enhancing existing partnerships, mandates and resources — or reimagining a new mission — for science–policy interfaces in this paper.

The science policy interfaces (SPI) options presented in this paper provide a potential framework to promote consensus around ways to achieve independent scientific interaction with policy needs at different scales. Establishing more effective food systems SPIs will require financial and political capital and time-defined dialogues that go beyond cooperation among existing SPIs to include other actors (including national and regional governments, the private sector and NGOs). These dialogues should be shaped by openness, inclusivity, transparency, scientific independence and institutional legitimacy.

The UN Food Systems Summit held in September 2021 provided some space for this discussion, which should be furthered during the UN Climate Change Conference in the UK (COP26) and Nutrition for Growth in Tokyo. The global community must seize on this historic moment to formulate commitments that enhance SPIs and that concretely help them to support the urgently needed transformation of our food systems.

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Faegre Drinker’s 2021 Food & Agribusiness National Conference discussed the major issues and trends from across market segments and product categories as a results of changes or developments in US food legislation. This included the increasing number of lawsuites dealing with food labelling and market practices about ingredients, health claims, "clean" claims, and serving size/portion claims. It also covered the new developments in FDA's Food Defense Rule, the new climate ESG (Economic Social and Governance ) task force looking at carbon footprint claims, the Food Labeling Modernization Act (FLMA), and remote inspections.

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9839658289?profile=RESIZE_584xThe Food Authenticity Network Executive Team (Selvarani Elahi and Mark Woolfe) and the Chair of our Advisory Board, Sterling Crew have been interviewed for an episode of Bruker's Food Authenticity Podcast series.

Listen to both parts of the episode here:

 You can access other episodes in this series with the links below:

  • Episode 1: Michael Roberts, Executive Director of the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy, discussing food authenticity and consequences of food fraud on the ecosystem.
  • Episode 2: Ron Phipps, president and founder of CPNA International and Vice President of Apimondia Scientific Commission on Beekeeping Economy discussing the impact of food fraud on the honey industry and steps that have been taken to combat the sale of illicit honey.

  • Episode 3: Peter Awram & Lawyer Gillian Wade exploring the problem of #honey adulteration from a perspective of both a producer and a legal expert.

  • Episode 4: Gordon Burns, technical director, and co-founder of ETS Laboratories. ETS Labs has been in operation for over 40 years, and currently runs specialist independent wine analysis labs based in California’s Napa Valley - one of the United States’ premium wine growing regions
  • Episode 5: Professor Michael Roberts, Executive Director of the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy at UCLA. Michael has been at the forefront of studies into food fraud for almost 20 years, having taught the first ever Food Law and Policy class at the University of Arkansas and Ron Phipps, Vice-President of the Apimondia Scientific Commission on Beekeeping Economy and President of CPNA International, Ltd.


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An operation led by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil has led to the arrest of six people charged with the unlicensed slaughter of horses and sale of horsemeat, which ended up as steaks and burgers. The scale of the fraud involved about 800 kilograms of meat being distributed per week, and this could have been taken place for 7 months.

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Poor Harvests Sends Price of Coffee Beans Soaring


Because of a poor harvest of Brazilian Arabica coffee, the price of coffee beans has increased 80% this year. Also part of this increase is because of poor supply chain issues. The poor harvest in Brazil was caused by a drought, but Colombia has also suffered a poor coffee harvest because of heavy rainfall damaging coffee plants. 

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Although there are thirteen varieties of ginseng, only two are commercialised in herbal products - Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). Ginseng root is a popular medicinal plant with a global estimated value of USD 2.1 billion. The two varieties are highly valued in their respective markets, and intentional mixing often takes place for economic reasons as does potential adulteration with other plants. Therefore, this study developed a DNA assay to identify the two species and distinguish them from potential adulterants. Preparation of the milled ginseng root degrades the DNA, which makes barcoding or sequencing not practical assays to identify the two types of ginseng. Therefore, specific hydrolysis probe-qPCR for the two varieties of ginseng was developed, and validated on a portable qPCR instrument using 9 authentic samples of P. ginseng and 10 authentic samples of P. quinquefolius, with 19 authentic samples of other potential adulterating plants. The assay was found to be 100% specific for each variety of ginseng with no cross reaction with the 19 other plants. The assay was then tested with 42 commercial herbal products of P. ginseng and 40 commercial products of P. quinquefolius purchased in China, Canada and the USA, which found that 2 of the P. ginseng products were incorrectly labelled and were P. quinquefolius. 

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Ancient wheat varieties - einkorn, emmer and spelt are called "hulled wheat" because the hulls are quite tough and not removed during threshing, unlike common and durum wheat, where the hulls are more brittle, and are termed "hulless wheat". Ancient wheat varieties are increasing in popularity, especially with organic farmers, because of their organoleptic qualities. They are collectively called the Italian term "farro". There is a siginificant price differential between hulled and hulless wheat, and hence a requirement to verify labelling of products containing einkorn, emmer and spelt. In this study, researchers have developed a digital PCR method that will quantify the amount of "farro" and hulless wheat (common or durum wheat) in flours and wheat based products. It was tested between two laboratories with a range of products, and apart from two products (which may have been labelling incorrectly), the two laboratories determination matched each other and the labelling very closely. There was no or very little cross reactivity with barley, oat and rice.

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The name Lambrusco is based on grape variety, and Lambrusco wines have been given PDO (Protected Denomination of Origin) status based on variety and method of production. They are produced in several regions in Italy, but mainly in the north including Modena, Reggio Emilia, and Mantua. In this study, 40 PDO Lambrusco wines were collected, 24 from Modena, 10 from Mantua, and 6 from Reggio Emilia. The feasibility of using isotopic ratios of  11B/10B,  87Sr/86Sr, 20yPb/20xPb, 18O/16O,  and the elemental concentrations of boron, lead and strontium were determined. After different chemometric analyses, the best differentiation of the PDOs was based mainly on boron and strontium, in terms of concentration and isotopic ratios, and on lead isotopic ratios.

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Dry-cured Iberian ham owes its special flavour because it is produced from pigs which feed on acorns. Spanish researchers have investigated the non-destructive authentication of Iberian ham by analysing the headspace from hams produced from different feeding regimes, and analysing the volatiles using gas chromatography coupled to either a mass spectrometer (GC-MS) or an ion mobility spectrometer (GC-IMS, which separates molecules based on their mass, shape and charge). Both instruments were able to differentiate different pig feeding regimes in hams. GC-IMS was more sensitive detecting more volatiles, but GC-MS gave better in providing quantitative results for the amount of volatiles. Using principal component analyis (PCA), the best authenticity markers for hams produced from different feeding regimes were ethanol, 2-propanol and 3-methylbutanol, 3-methylbutanal and heptane.

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The United States Food and Drug Administration has created a dedicated webpage on food fraud. The page gives information on:

  • How to report food fraud
  • Examples of food fraud
  • How FDA fights food fraud
  • Enforcement and legal consequences
  • Guidance documents
  • Import alerts
  • Research publications
  • Additional resources.

Visit the FDA Food Fraud webpage here.

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JRC has published its monthly summary on articles covering food fraud and adulteration. In this October issue, there are articles on frauds involving wine, alcoholic beverages, milk and milk products, herbs and spices, cereals, vegetables, meat products, food supplements, seafood, sugar, olive oil, honey.

Read the full summary of articles at: October JRC Fraud Summary


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Not from concentrate (NFC) juice has better flavour and demands a higher price than reconstituted juice, and hence is more vulnerable to adulteration with sugar and water. This study investigates the use carbon and oxygen stable isotope ratios (δ13C and δ18O values) of the bulk juice and different juice components from 21 fruit and vegetable juicesto determine whether water and/or sugar has been added. Using juice pulp as an internal standard, δ13C values can qualitatively and quantitatively indicate the presence of C4 plant sugars in NFC juice, and can reliably detect added C4 plant sugars above 7 %. Determination of δ13C values of different juice sugars (sucrose, glucose and fructose) and carbon content can qualitatively infer C3 plant sugar addition to NFC juices. δ18O values of the pulp extracted from juice had a good linear relationship with the juice water δ18O values (R2 > 0.90). Also, comparison of δ18O values of extraneous water, pulp and filtered juice can also determine water addition to NFC juices. 

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9757237698?profile=RESIZE_584xEmerging regulations and industry standards are requiring risk and vulnerability assessments of Food Fraud as a prerequisite to countermeasures and decision-making systems.

These assessments and risk management systems are not familiar food safety tools. It is effective and efficient to utilize an enterprise risk management (ERM) framework, such as developed by the Committee of the Sponsoring Companies of the Treadway Commission (COSO).

ERM risk assessment occurs into two stages: (1) a qualitative initial screening followed by (2) a more detailed quantitative assessment. All types of Food Fraud can result in enterprise-wide risks so an enterprise risk management system must cover all types of vulnerabilities.

The model developed in this paper addresses the unmet need of the first stage referred to here as the Food Fraud Initial Screening (FFIS).

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In the spring of 2021, poor weather conditions led to a significant decrease in the champagne grape harvest. Because most champagne is aged in the bottle for  two to four years, the reduced production in 2020 and 2021 will be felt most acutely in the market in 2023 or 2024. However, prices are already beginning to increase in traditional sales markets of the UK and USA in the light of rising demand, and now future supplies are also looking critical.

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The use of water stable isotope ratios (hydrogen/deuterium and oxygen 16/18) as authenticity markers to verify geographical origin is very well established.  It requires producing a database of delta (δ)  values by collecting reference data from the claimed country or region of origin, but also collecting comparative data from other regions to validate or disprove the food’s origin. Swiss researchers in collaboration with Agroisolab GmbH, have developed a model, which allows the oxygen isotope ratio in plants to be calculated from individual regions, thereby eliminating the need for the time-consuming collection of reference data. The model utilises the temperature, precipitation and humidity data of the country/region, and information about the growing season of a plant, all of which are available from publicly accessible databases. The model was tested and validated on a unique δ18O reference dataset for strawberries collected across Europe over a period of 11 years. The case study has shown that the model can simulate the origin of the strawberries with a high degree of accuracy.    

You can read the article or the full open access paper.          

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Herbs are high value ingredients, which are vulnerable to adulteration and fraud. Confirmatory methods based on DNA analysis have shown to be the most useful in investigating herb adulteration. In this study, a customised database and bioinformatics pipeline was developed based on a DNA barcoding metagenomics approach to herbal species identification. The pipeline performance was tested with publicly available datasets, as well as, newly sequenced herbal plants and products. The usefulness of metagenomics is limited by the availability of reference sequences and the need for sequencing depth.  However, this method shows promise for evaluating the authenticity of different herbal products provided that it is further refined to increase the qualitative and quantitative accuracy.

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This project (FA0160)  builds on two previous feasibility studies, and develops the principle of using a food microbiome as an authenticity marker for the development of methodology that discriminates provenance on the basis of its microbial fingerprint. It also exploits the latest NGS (Next Generation Sequencing) technology, which permits a large number of microbiological groups to be identified to create the microbial profile. Further details of the project and its results were published in our October 2021 Newsletter. The final report is available on the Defra (Departmnt of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) website, and the link has also been added to the website's list of research reports.

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One of the roles of the Food Authenticity Network is to help bring those involved in food authenticity testing together in a more coordinated way. Centres of Expertise laboratories were created recognising their different disciplines and techniques involved in food authenticity testing, and trying to cover all  of the food commodities. The UK Government’s Authenticity Methods Working Group produced a number of criteria, which outlined the type of qualities an organisation offering a particular expertise might be expected to demonstrate to become a ‘Centre of Expertise’ (CoE). There is an expectation that such organisations should be prepared to engage with and offer support to others in their areas of expertise both within the Network and more widely if required.

Currently, 14 organisations have been acknowledged as Food Authenticity Centres of Expertise.

We would like to invite applications from suitably qualified laboratories to become a Food Authenticity Centres of Expertise. In recognition of the fact that food authenticity testing is conducted globally, we welcome applications from laboratories both in the UK and outside the UK. The acknowledgement of Centre of Expertise status is performed jointly by the UK Government and the Food Authenticity Network Executive Management Team.

If you think your laboratory can fulfil the AMWG criteria for CoEs then please complete a self-assessment evidence proforma, providing evidence of your capabilities, and return to by 30 November 2021. You will be notified of the outcome by the end of January 2022.

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