The Fight to Prevent Food Fraud

We all must make a certain “leap of faith” that we are actually eating what we think we are eating.

Food and beverage processors and manufacturers around the world execute food safety management programs to maximize food safety, and minimize food fraud events. Food fraud (adulteration is a growing concern both to the industry and consumers globally because of some high-profile cases (e.g. EU horsemeat scandal) and also the idea that non-accidental ingredient modification/mislabeling events that are economically motivated adulteration (called EMAs) could erode public trust.

Geographical regions such as North America, Europe, India, and China along with their industry partners and associations are developing stronger guidelines and standards for detecting adulterants and implementing food fraud mitigation strategies, as well as collective tracking of food authenticity and EMA events. Such fraud cases are typically the result of deliberate addition, deletion, dilution, alteration of ingredients, or misleading advertising with the intention of economic gain.

Products for food authenticity testing

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Food fraud by ingredient swapping

Illicit substitution of cheaper ingredients to reduce production costs is also common in economically motivated adulteration (EMA) cases. For example, in the edible oil industry, food fraud cases often involve the blending of inferior oils with premium oils to boost volumes (and profits) without accurate labeling. A gas chromatography (GC) fingerprinting technique is used to monitor the product for adulteration and identify the contaminant.

Read the article on edible oil adulteration testing

Honey adulteration by ingredient swapping, masking & mislabeling

Honey is one of the most faked foods globally, with substitutions ranging from cheaper honeys, to cheaper sweeteners such as sucrose, fructose, etc. and additional concerns about the presence of harmful antibiotics and other chemicals. The usage of pollen analysis to ascertain botanical origin has limited effectiveness due to ultrapurfication of many honeys followed by the unscrupulous addition of small amounts of pollen rich honey from alternative sources. The characterization of the volatile profile of honey has proven to be a reliable alternative to pollen analysis for the assessment of its botanical origin.

Read the article on honey fraud detection using volatiles analysis

Food fraud by species swapping

Illicit substitution of one species for another for economic gain is common in food adulterations cases. DNA identification is typically required to identify adulterants and necessitates very clean samples and standards.

Milk adulteration by blending species

The substitution of ewe milk with more economic cow milk is a common fraud. A routine CE method modified from human blood and urine protein analysis, is utilized to separate distinct species-specific milk protein profiles.

Milk adulteration by illegal additives

 

The 2008 milk scandal was a widespread food safety incident in China. The scandal involved adulterated milk and infant formula with melamine that consequently affected an estimated 300,000 babies, resulting in six infant deaths and an estimated 54,000 babies hospitalized. Since 2008, there has been constant reform to regulation of the global infant formula industry and great achievement to infant formula testing methods. Industry methods have been moving from immunoassay testing to LC-MS/MS for greater accuracy and sensitivity.

Essential oil dilution by inferior chemical adulteration

One of the most common adulterations to mandarin, bergamot, bitter orange, and lemon oils, is the addition of low-cost lime or orange oil. The δ-3-carene level and the δ-3-carene/camphene ratio are particularly useful for the detection of the possible addition of these sweet orange oils or orange oil terpenes. Gas chromatography is used to verify the purity of the citrus essential oils being used in their products. The SLB-5ms column, available in Fast GC dimensions, proved to be a good choice for this application due to its ability to resolve the analytes of interest.

Read the article on essential oil fraud analysis

Latest food fraud and authenticity issues

Food Type Adulteration  
Beef Horse DNA standards for food authenticity testing
Infant formula Melamine Analysis of melamine in milk
Honey Sugar cane or corn syrup Determination of fructose, glucose, sucrose,
maltose and lactose in honey