Tag Archives: adulteration

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Criminals in the Lab

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Testing methods, analysis
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Herbs and botanical ingredients are a common target for fraud, especially during times of increased demand, for example caused by COVID-19. The Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP) published an article describing some of the fraudulent methods that are used to intentionally create false results. The paper explains how deliberately manipulated plant extracts can fool lab methods like gas chromatography or high-performance liquid chromatography to produce results which make the analyzed product look legitimate.

Resource

  1. Nutraceuticals World. (October 30, 2020). “BAPP Publishes Article Detailing Adulteration Schemes Used to Fool Laboratory Analytical Methods”.
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Seed Of Thistle May Not Always Produce Thistle

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Milk thistle
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Silymarin, a complex mixture of flavonolignans, is the main pharmacologically active ingredient of milk thistle, usually used in an extracted form. Milk thistle is often used to treat liver problems, and sales of supplements containing silymarin remain strong. In an estimated 30–50% of milk thistle products, the label claims of active ingredients do not hold up in the actual product, when analyzed with methods such as HPLC-UV. In some investigated samples, the active ingredient content did not even reach the minimum standard. This does not pose a direct threat to consumers’ health, however, the expected therapeutical benefits are not given in products with low content of silymarin.

Resource

  1. McCutcheon, A. (October 16, 2020) “Botanical Adulterants Prevention Bulletin: Adulteration of Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)”. Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program. American Botanical Council.
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Listen To Your Elder(berries)

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis

As a tasty source of Vitamin C, B6, antioxidants, iron and more, elderberries have been a growing part of the latest health, immune boosting and wellness trends. Currently, the demand exceeds the supply for elderberries. For the past four to five years, this growth in popularity has been inviting adulteration of elderberry with other dark berries such as blueberries, as well as dyes, black rice and other materials. According to the Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program, such fraud can be detected by a variety of chromatographic methods.

Food fraud, elderberry
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne.

Resource

  1. Schultz, H. (September 23, 2020) “Nature’s Way finds more evidence of widespread elderberry adulteration”. Nutra Ingredients-USA.
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

To Bee Or Not To Bee

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Bee, food fraud, honey
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne.

Fake honey is an enormous economical burden on beekeepers and consumers around the world. Adulteration methods are becoming more and more sophisticated. Besides the old-fashioned scams of real honey getting diluted or replaced by syrup, new tricks show up, for example pollen getting blended into syrup, chemical alteration of syrup to confuse tests, fake honey traveling through a number of countries to mask its country of origin, or a combination of these methods. Since the adulterated honey does not pose a risk to consumer’s health, government enforcement to detect and punish honey adulteration has not been very strong. So far, authenticity tests are mostly left to the private sector and the honey industry.

Resource

  1. Copeland, C. (August 26, 2020). “Honey is one of the most faked foods in the world, and the US government isn’t doing much to fix it“. Business Insider.
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

A Truly Bitter Herb

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food fraud, oregano blossom
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne.

The European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) Portal shows a notification about the use of olive leaves in oregano in Turkey. Addition of cheaper bulking agents to herbs and spices is a common way of achieving a higher profit margin for pricier herbs. The olive leaves were classified as an unauthorized novel ingredient; however, they are known to be used for the adulteration of oregano. An investigation of commercial oregano samples showed that one quarter of samples were adulterated with other plant leaves, and two of the samples didn’t even contain any oregano.

Resources

  1. European Commission RASFF Portal. (August 14, 2020). Notification details – 2020.3270 “Unauthorised novel food ingredient olive leaves in oregano from Turkey, via the Netherlands”.
  2. Black, C. et al. (November 1, 2016) “A comprehensive strategy to detect the fraudulent adulteration of herbs: The oregano approach”. Food Chemistry.
Department of Justice seal

Blue Bell Hit with Record $17.25 Million in Criminal Penalties for 2015 Listeria Outbreak

By Maria Fontanazza
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Department of Justice seal

Remember the 2015 Listeria outbreak linked to Blue Bell Creameries? The outbreak led to three deaths and 10 illnesses between January 2010 and January 2015. On Thursday the Department of Justice ordered the company to pay $17.25 million in criminal penalties for shipping contaminated products linked to that outbreak. The sentence, enforced by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman (Austin, Texas), is the largest fine and forfeiture ever imposed in a conviction involving a food safety case.

“American consumers must be able to trust that the foods they purchase are safe to eat,” stated – Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark, Justice Department’s Civil Division in an agency news release. “The sentence imposed today sends a clear message to food manufacturers that the Department of Justice will take appropriate actions when contaminated food products endanger consumers.”

In May 2020 Blue Bell pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of distributing adulterated ice cream. The following is an excerpt from the Department of Justice news release:

“The plea agreement and criminal information filed against Blue Bell allege that the company distributed ice cream products that were manufactured under insanitary conditions and contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, in violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. According to the plea agreement, Texas state officials notified Blue Bell in February 2015 that samples of two ice cream products from the company’s Brenham, Texas factory tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, a dangerous pathogen that can lead to serious illness or death in vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. Blue Bell directed its delivery route drivers to remove remaining stock of the two products from store shelves, but the company did not recall the products or issue any formal communication to inform customers about the potential Listeria contamination. Two weeks after receiving notification of the first positive Listeria tests, Texas state officials informed Blue Bell that additional state-led testing confirmed Listeria in a third product. Blue Bell again chose not to issue any formal notification to customers regarding the positive tests. Blue Bell’s customers included military installations.”

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Inspector Meerkat: Fraudulent Coconut Oil

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis

Inspector Meerkat checking in with this week’s food fraud investigation: While scanning the Food Fraud Database, I found that coconut oil was recently added to the site. There have been six reported incidents of fraud in coconut oil since 2013, with the most recent incident reported May 2019. Five of the incidents involved coconut oils produced in India, and one incident involved products from the Philippines. Reasons for adulteration include fraudulent labeling claims, dilution or substitution with an alternate ingredient, and misrepresentation of botanical origin.

Resource

  1. Technology-Enabled Risk Management”. Food Fraud Database.

Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Not So Grape Expectations

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Grapeseed
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Due to health benefits, grape seed extract has become more and more popular. Cheaper plant extracts, for example peanut skin extract, show very similar results with chromatographic methods, and therefore adulteration of grape seed extract may remain undetected. The American Botanical Council’s Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program released a laboratory guidance document that reviews analytical methods for detecting adulteration of grape seed extract with proanthocyanidin-rich extracts from other botanical sources.

Resource

  1. Kupina, S.A., et al. (2019). “Grape Seed Extract Laboratory Guidance Document”. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX.
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

A New Way Of Greenwashing

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Pistachio, food fraud
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Turkish delight, baklava, halva, biscotti, mortadella, ice cream and many more delicious foods from around the world contain pistachios, which are pricey and therefore a popular target for food fraud. A recent article describes a method to detect spinach and green peas that often are used as a pistachio replacement due to their color and low price. The technique combines NIR (near infrared) spectroscopy and chemometric analysis and provides a method that is precise, fast and non-destructive.

Resource

  1. Genis, H.E., et al. (August 15, 2020). “Determination of green pea and spinach adulteration in pistachio nuts using NIR spectroscopy”. Science Direct. LWT.
Karen Everstine, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Adulteration of Botanical Ingredients

By Karen Everstine, Ph.D.
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Karen Everstine, Decernis

Botanical ingredients are important to the food and beverage industries as well as the dietary supplements industry. Botanicals are plants or specific plant parts (leaves, roots, bark, berries, etc.) that are used for particular properties. These properties can be therapeutic or related to color, flavor or other attributes. Botanicals include extracts such as Ginkgo biloba, saw palmetto, and elderberry as well as herbs and spices used in cooking, essential oils, pomegranate juice and extracts, and olive oil. There is a substantial overlap between botanical products used in the herb and supplement industries and those used in foods and beverages. Many “conventional” foods and beverages include botanical extracts or other ingredients to advertise a therapeutic effect.

In 2014, FDA issued a final guidance for industry related to labeling of liquid dietary supplements (vs. beverages). FDA noted, in their rationale for the guidance, two trends:

“First, we have seen an increase in the marketing of beverages as dietary supplements, in spite of the fact that the packaging and labeling of many liquid products represent the products as conventional foods. Products that are represented as conventional foods do not meet the statutory definition of a dietary supplement…and must meet the regulatory requirements that apply to conventional foods.

Second, FDA has seen a growth in the marketplace of beverages and other conventional foods that contain novel ingredients, such as added botanical ingredients or their extracts. Some of these ingredients have not previously been used in conventional foods and may be unapproved food additives. In addition, ingredients that have been present in the food supply for many years are now being added to beverages and other conventional foods at levels in excess of their traditional use levels or in new beverages or other conventional foods. This trend raises questions regarding whether these ingredients are unapproved food additives when used at higher levels or under other new conditions of use. Some foods with novel ingredients also bear claims that misbrand the product or otherwise violate the FFDCA.”

The American Botanical Council (ABC) has been publishing information on the safe, responsible and effective use of botanicals since 1988, including the quarterly journal HerbalGram and a book of herb monographs The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. In order to help combat the increasing problem of adulteration in the industry, the Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP) was launched in 2010 by ABC along with the American Herbal Pharmacopeia and the University of Mississippi National Center for Natural Products Research. The goal of BAPP is to educate members of the herbal and dietary supplement industry about ingredient and product adulteration through the publication of documents such as adulteration bulletins and laboratory guidance documents. The information in these documents helps ensure the identity, authenticity and safety of botanicals along the supply chain.

Karen Everstine will be discussing food fraud during the 2020 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series | An example of the Botanical Adulterants Prevention Bulletin for cranberry is seen in Figure 1. It includes a description of the species that can be labeled as cranberry in the United States, a brief description of the marketplace, information on potential adulterants in cranberry fruit extract and other cranberry products, and guidance on analytical methods to test cranberry products for adulteration.

Cranberry adulteration, Botanical Adulterants Bulletin
Figure 1 courtesy of Decernis and the Botanical Adulterants Bulletin.

Decernis has been working with the Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP) to integrate links to their expert content into the Food Fraud Database (FFD). This will ensure our users can better develop ingredient specifications, manage risk, and protect their consumers by leveraging this content for food fraud and herbal ingredient fraud prevention. We are currently incorporating three types of BAPP documents into FFD:

  • Adulterants Bulletins. Information and links to these documents will be entered as Inference records in FFD. We are extracting ingredient and adulterant names (including Latin names as synonyms) from the document, assigning “Reasons for Adulteration,” and providing a link to the full document on the BAPP website.
  • Adulteration Reports. Information and links to these documents will also be entered as Inference records in FFD. We are extracting ingredient and adulterant names from the document, assigning “Reasons for Adulteration,” and providing a link to the full document on the BAPP website.
  • Laboratory Guidance documents. Information and links to these documents will be entered as both method record and inference records in FFD. We are extracting ingredient and adulterant names from the document, assigning “Reasons for Adulteration,” and providing a link to the full document on the BAPP website.

Decernis analysts are currently integrating this content into FFD, which will be uploaded to the system between now and early September.