Tag Archives: adulteration

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Food And Drug Fraud, As Old As Humanity

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food fraud, herbs and spices
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

In all of human history, adulteration and fraud followed closely in the footsteps of new products, and herbs, spices and drugs are no exception. Even 2000 years ago, Pliny the Elder described adulteration. In ancient Athens, inspectors monitored the authenticity of wine. Scientific methods were first applied by Archimedes, and started to be utilized more by the end of the 17th century. In the 1850s, heightened public awareness and the demand for higher product quality raised anti-adulteration movements and increased enforcement.

Resource

1. Foster, S. (2011). “A Brief History of Adulteration of Herbs, Spices, and Botanical Drugs”. American Botanical Council.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Fraud Detection Coordination Across the Nations

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Herbs, Spices, food fraud
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Spices and herbs are sourced at a rate of 300,000 tons into the EU from places around the world, and fraudulent activity can happen in any steps along the supply chain. The European Commission’s control plan investigated nearly 2,000 samples of herbs and spices commonly targeted for fraud, such as oregano, cumin, turmeric, paprika, pepper and saffron, and found oregano to be the most manipulated, usually by the addition of olive leaves. Overall, the rate of 17% fraudulent products was down compared to other studies.

Resource

  1. Maquet, A., et al. (2021) “Results of an EU wide coordinated control plan to establish the prevalence of fraudulent practices in the marketing of herbs and spices”. European Commission Joint Research Centre Publications Repository.
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

The Many Ways To Make Fraudulent Olive Oil

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Olives
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

The production methods for high quality olive oil are well defined, but fraudsters use a multitude of ways to produce fake premium olive oils and charge steep prices for mediocre or even dangerous products. From false declaration of origin, blending with lower quality olive oils or other vegetable oils, second centrifugation of olive paste, deodorizing, to false labeling claims, this study lists several common fraudulent practices. Olive oil keeps making the top of the list of frequently adulterated foods, but meanwhile is also one of the most highly tested commodities.

Resource

  1. Casadei, E. et al. (June 2021). “Emerging trends in olive oil fraud and possible countermeasures”. Food Control. Science Direct.

 

Jonathan Sharp, Environmental Litigation Group
In the Food Lab

How Baby Food Companies Can Minimize the Concentration of Heavy Metals in Products

By Jonathan Sharp
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Jonathan Sharp, Environmental Litigation Group

On February 4, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives made public a report concerning the existence of heavy metals in baby food. The heavy metals of concern were cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury, which pose a tremendous hazard to developing children’s health. After reviewing internal documents and test results from seven of the largest baby food manufacturers in the country, the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy found each company’s products to contain dangerously high concentrations of heavy metals.

Four of the companies, Nurture, Beech-Nut, Hain and Gerber, responded to the request. They provided internal testing policies, test results for ingredients and finished products, and documentation about how they handled finished products and ingredients that exceeded their internal testing limits.

On the other hand, Walmart, Campbell and Sprout Organic Foods refused to partake in the investigation. The Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy members are very concerned that the lack of cooperation of these manufacturers could obstruct the presence of even higher levels of heavy metals in their products than their competitors.

Practical Measures Baby Food Companies Can Take to Ensure Products Are Safe for Children

Baby food manufacturers may not intentionally add heavy metals to their products, but their lack of testing and a lack of regulation in this sense is a cause for great concern. The main ingredients in baby foods such as rice, sweet potatoes, wheat, and carrots absorb heavy metals from the soil and water and metal-containing pesticides and industrial pollution.

Therefore, the companies that manufacture baby food should tackle the issue of heavy metals at the root of the problem and abide by strict safety measures and protocols to ensure low concentrations of heavy metals, particularly arsenic. Some of the steps that they could take to minimize this issue are the following:

  • Sourcing cereals, fruits, and vegetables from fields with lower arsenic concentrations in the earth
  • Growing crops with natural soil additives that reduce heavy metal uptake
  • Using strains of food that are less prone to absorb heavy metals
  • Altering irrigation practices
  • Preparing the food with excess water that is afterward poured off
  • Blending it with lower arsenic grains in multi-grain products

Subsequently, when the end product is finished, manufacturers should collect a sample from the finite product and test it for cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury. Fortunately, nowadays, testing baby food for heavy metals is easier than ever and cost-efficient. Every food facility that must comply with FSMA must implement HACCP and establish preventive controls. HACCP, which is recognized internationally, ensures the health and safety of consumers by avoiding hazardous toxins in food. When it comes to baby food companies, they should focus on chemistry testing, as it addresses chemical and physical hazards, including heavy metals.

Alternatively, baby food companies can test their products by using the guidelines of the Environmental Defense Fund. The non-profit advocacy group advises manufacturers to prohibit arsenic, cadmium explicitly, and lead in any packaging or food handling equipment and strictly avoid brass and bronze unless they are confident that no heavy metal was added. Manufacturers of baby food should test the products per se, the ingredients, and the packaging for arsenic, cadmium, and lead. More specifically, companies should:

  • Consistently test baby food and their main ingredients that may be contaminated with arsenic, cadmium, or lead by using the method approved by the FDA and examine potential sources of heavy metals where measurable concentrations are found
  • Periodically test the packaging that comes in contact with food anywhere along the supply chain for arsenic, cadmium, or lead through a CPSC-accepted, third-party certified lab that evaluates baby food for heavy metals

In December of 2019, the cost of heavy metal testing was between $50 and $100 per sample. Nevertheless, companies that produce baby food should invest in heavy metal testing, no matter how small or large. This is the only way of making sure they put exclusively clean and safe products of high quality on the market.

To make sure baby food companies keep following the guidelines concerning heavy metals and do not fail to test their products for these neurotoxins regularly, the authority of the FDA should be expanded. Accordingly, the agency should be able to request a recall of adulterated or misbranded baby food whose concentration of heavy metals exceeds the safe limit. Moreover, the FDA should establish health-protective standards for each heavy metal and implement a testing program for neurotoxins in foods eaten by infants and toddlers that could be similar to the agenda of the Consumer Product Safety Commission for children’s toys.

The Ethical Measures Baby Food Companies Should Take to Avoid Selling Tainted Products

Baby food companies should exercise their social and moral capacity at all times. Nonetheless, while few people achieve the extent of influence necessary to change society itself, the food industry can drastically change societies. Moreover, it can also act in morally beneficial or detrimental ways, which inevitably affects people, the environment, and, ultimately, the planet itself.

To prevent your baby food company from developing unethical conducts, such as allowing dangerous concentrations of heavy metals in the products that end up on the market, there are a series of measures you and the other people who are in charge of the business can take, the paramount being the following:

  • Hiring accredited, trustworthy and competent people is perhaps the most important, as well as the first, step you can take to ensure no foul play will occur, as they will be unlikely to cover up essential information from you and the other higher-ups
  • Sourcing your ingredients from ethical suppliers, that are, preferably, local farmers, as they usually employ transparent business practices
  • Make sure that your facilities are maintained clean 24/7 by hiring the right people to take care of this not-so-easy job as if you neglect the condition of your facilities. Other contaminants may end up in the food you sell
  • Systematically testing your baby food for cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury to ensure the products you allow to go on the market do not contain dangerous levels of heavy metals
  • Partnering with experienced laboratories to have your baby food regularly tested for heavy metals, which may help you save money if it is going to be a win-win situation
  • Having clear labels, even if you add ingredients that are not so healthy in your products, which will result in the consumers you target trusting you as a company
  • Voluntarily recalling a line of baby food products as soon as you receive the positive test results for one or multiple heavy metals, which will spare you some liability if you willingly take your food off the market

The Changes the Baby Food Safety Act May Bring About if the Bill Becomes Effective

On March 26, 2021, Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi introduced the Baby Food Safety Act, a bill to set maximum limits for each heavy metal in infant and toddler food, which is defined as food manufactured for children younger than 36 months. The initiative was taken because the concentration of neurotoxins in baby food is poorly regulated in our country. There is only a maximum limit for arsenic set by the FDA, which is considered dangerous by multiple other health agencies. It applies solely to infant rice cereals. The other three harmful heavy metals are not regulated at all.

If the Baby Food Act of 2021 becomes effective, companies that manufacture, process, pack or hold baby food need to ensure that their food complies with the limits on heavy metals set by the bill. Furthermore, baby food companies would also have to provide public information, such as test results for neurotoxins in their infant and toddler.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Location, Location, Location

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Wine fraud
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Consumers are increasingly requesting food and beverages to be authentic, especially when it comes to wine and its concept of terroir. Lambrusco wine has a Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO) status—only wine that is grown in these specific regions in Italy can be labeled Lambrusco. In this study, chemical and isotopic compositions were used to determine geographic origin. Specific boron, strontium and lead isotopes can be used to determine climate conditions and plant localities, translating into geographic locations of origins of food and beverages.

Resource

  1. Lancellotti, L., et al. (2021). “Tracing geographical origin of Lambrusco PDO wines using isotope ratios of oxygen, boron, strontium, lead and their elemental concentration”. Current Research in Food Science. Science Direct.
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Food Imports Yes, Food Fraud No

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud, China
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Almost one third of imported foods in China were rejected due to fraud, according to a 10-year detailed study published in Food Control. The report states that processed foods accounted for over 87% of the fraudulent products. Drinks, candy, cookies and meat are the most frequently adulterated items. Artificial enhancement is the leading reason for adulteration—for example, undeclared food additives, prohibited veterinary drugs, ingredient substitutes and inedible adulterants. The study will assist in the prevention of food fraud for imports into China.

Resource

  1. Li, D., et al. (Publish date March 2022). “Food fraud of rejected imported foods in China in 2009–2019”. Science Direct. Food Control.
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Spice Up Your Pizza…with Olive Leaves

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food fraud, herbs spices
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Who wants shredded olive leaves on their pizza instead of oregano? Herbs and spices keep being a target for food fraud, a European Commission study that analyzed nearly 1,900 samples revealed. The study showed that about 20% of herbs and spices are manipulated, with oregano leading the top of the list, followed by spices that include pepper, cumin, curcuma, saffron and paprika. Europe is a leading importer of herbs and spices at 300,000 tons a year. The entire supply chain from country of origin, processing, packaging, importing to distribution, is potentially vulnerable to fraud. In most cases, undeclared plant material was added, and sometimes toxic dyes were found—and these are detrimental to human health.

Resource

  1. Food Processing. (December 1, 2021). “EU study reveals herb and spice food fraud.”
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

In Not-So-Good Spirits

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food fraud, vodka
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Fraudulent alcoholic beverages often carry health risks for consumers, since counterfeit products may contain contaminants such as methanol, chloroform, isopropanol and more, leading to kidney and liver problems, blindness and sometimes death. A store owner in the UK was fined for selling counterfeit vodka under the label of a famous Scottish distillery. The Foods Standards Agency is taking these (rare) cases of counterfeit alcohol in the UK extremely seriously due to the potentially serious health impact on consumers.

Resource

  1. Taylor , P. (November 10, 2021). “Liverpool store sold fake Glen’s vodka unfit for consumption”. Securing Industry.
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Coffee That’s Not Just Full of Beans

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Coffee fraud
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Fraudulent food and beverage products can sometimes have serious health implications. A fake soluble coffee product made its way to some small retailers in Germany and contains dangerous glass and plastic shards. The public is requested to report the counterfeit product. The investigation of this very serious, hazardous fraud is ongoing.

Resource

  1. Von Redaktion, B. (October 22, 2021). “Warnung: Erhebliche Gesundheitsgefahr durch gefährliche Produktfälschung von löslichem Kaffee”. ProductWarnung D-A-CH.

Learn more about foreign matter contamination in food during the upcoming Food Safety Tech complimentary virtual event, “Food Safety Hazards Series: Physical Hazards“, on Thursday, December 16 at 12 pm ET.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

The Family Business Of Food Fraud

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Organized Crime, food fraud
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image Credit: Susanne Kuehne

Organized crime is heavily involved in farming and agriculture, while generating a yearly revenue of $28 billion in Italy alone. Besides the exploitation of farm workers, protection rackets and subsidy fraud, significant profits are made from fraudulent products, such as mislabeled or tampered olive oil, buffalo mozzarella and parma ham. Consumer and worker organizations are calling for more transparent supply chains and traceability of agricultural products, because these are growing and ongoing problems.

Resource

  1. Hanschke, K. (October 18, 2021). “Wie sich die Mafia im Lebensmittelhandel bereichert”. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.