Tag Archives: counterfeit

Selvarani Elahi, Food Authenticity Network
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Food Fraud Information Sharing

By Karen Everstine, Ph.D., Selvarani Elahi
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Selvarani Elahi, Food Authenticity Network

Coordination among the various agencies and laboratories responsible for food safety is an ongoing challenge. Coordination and standardization of laboratories and methods related to food authenticity testing can be even more challenging. As noted in the Elliott Review into the Integrity and Assurance of Food Supply Networks (conducted following the 2013 horsemeat incident):

“Official controls of food authenticity require a wide range of analytical and molecular biological techniques, many with exacting instrumentation requirements and in-depth scientific interpretation of the datasets generated. No single institution…could field the complete range of such techniques with the required expertise.”

One of the recommendations in Elliott Review was the establishment of an “Authenticity Assurance Network” to facilitate standardized approaches to food authenticity testing. This network would also enable better coordination among government departments related to policies, surveillance and criminal investigation around food fraud. The Food Authenticity Network (FAN) was subsequently established in 2015 by the U.K. government and serves as a repository for news and information on best practices for food authenticity testing methods and food fraud mitigation. At the heart of FAN, there is a network of laboratories that provide authenticity testing, which are designated as Food Authenticity Centers of Expertise (CoE). A contact person is named for every CoE so that stakeholders can communicate with them regarding food authenticity testing. There is a call currently open for UK Food Authenticity Centres of Expertise, so take a look and see if your laboratory fits the requirements.

Over the past four years, FAN has grown to more than 1,500 members from 68 countries/territories and in 2019, more than 12,000 unique users accessed information on the network’s website.

Food Authenticity Network
Heatmap of Food Authenticity Network membership. (Graphic courtesy of FAN)

The site currently hosts 101 government reports, 77 standard operating procedures (SOPs), 16 survey reports, and 22 reports on nitrogen factors (which are used for meat and fish content calculations). Importantly, the site also includes a section on food fraud mitigation, which signposts some of the world’s leading services, guidance and reports aimed at preventing fraud from occurring.

FAN posts periodic newsletters with updates on funded projects, research reports, government activity, upcoming conferences, and other news of interest related to assuring the integrity of food. The latest newsletter has just been issued.

In its efforts to create a truly global network, as well as reaching out to the international food community, FAN is collaborating with other governments. In 2019, Selvarani Elahi gave presentations on FAN in Ghana and Vietnam, and discussions are currently taking place with the Ghana Food and Drugs Administration and the International Atomic Energy Agency about creating bespoke country-specific pages. In 2018, FAN was recognized at a Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting as being a “leading example of an integrity network.” Discussions are also in progress with multiple Codex Member countries.

FAN is an open access platform and membership is free (you can sign up here). The benefits of membership include access to closed discussion fora on the site, customizable email alerts, and options to communicate with other network members, as well as a monthly highlights email that rounds up the month’s activities in one convenient location.

The Network was set-up with funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Food Standards Agency, Food Standards Scotland, and is currently supported with public-private partnership funding from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, McCormick and Company, LGC Standards and the Institute of Food Science & Technology.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Fraudulent Dinner Is Served

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

Due to extensive opportunities for fraud, the lack of an adequate monitoring system, cost pressures in the industry, and lack of transparency in the food supply chain, amongst other factors, fraudulent food products still pose a significant risk within the hospitality industry. A recent study discusses the food service food fraud vulnerability assessment (FS-FFCA), showing as an example that one-third of extra virgin olive oil samples at restaurants and catering facilities were adulterated. More tools are urgently needed to protect consumers and legitimate operations from illicit activities.

Resource

  1. van Ruth, S.M., et al. (March 9, 2020): “Feeding fiction: Fraud vulnerability in the food service industry”. Food Research International, Volume 133, July 2020, 109158

 

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Whisky Improves With Age

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

Aged Scotch whisky can cost a fortune. For example, a bottle of Macallan Fine and Rare 60-Year-Old 1926 was auctioned off for $1.9 million. What a perfect target for counterfeiters! Nuclear science to the rescue: Scientists at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Center have developed a method to determine a whisky’s age. The radioactive fallout from the detonation of atomic bombs in the 1950s and 1960s has enabled scientists to create a Carbon-14 calibration curve based on whiskies with known age.

Resource

  1. Gordon T Cook, Elaine Dunbar, Brian G Tripney and Derek Fabel (8 January 2020): “Using Carbon Isotopes to Fight the Rise in Fraudulent Whisky”. Cambridge University Press. Volume 62, Issue 1, February 2020, pp. 51-62
Karen Everstine, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Fraud in Alcoholic Beverages

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

Recently, a group of researchers published a paper that documented unique chemical “fingerprints” left by whiskies after evaporation that could be used to identify the origin (specifically, American whiskeys in relation to Scotch and Irish whiskies.) Authentication of value-added label attributes in wine and spirits is important for protection of producers, brands and markets. Other examples include varietal fraud and geographic indication misrepresentation with wines and counterfeit production (intellectual property infringement) of a variety of spirits.

Food Fraud, wine
The Food Fraud Database has captured 220 incidents of fraud involving all alcoholic beverages and 63 specifically involving wines. (Source: Grape Wall of China)

Unfortunately, alcoholic beverages are also prone to fraud involving the addition of substances that can cause illness or death. This often happens at the local level, with the production of “moonshine” or other unlicensed spirits. Some of the substances used have included methanol, isopropyl alcohol and industrial-grade alcohol.
One notable incident from the 1980s had global implications and severe market effects. Diethylene glycol was added to Austrian wines, resulting in recalls around the world when the adulteration was detected. Fortunately, no illnesses or deaths were reported. Just a year later, methanol added to Italian wine caused both hospitalizations and deaths. More recently, incidents involving the addition of methanol to spirits have caused deaths in India, China and Malaysia.

Authentication and traceability for alcoholic beverages, and specifically wines, lend themselves to technology-enabled solutions such as blockchain. On a lighter note, take a look at some of the labels documented by reporters covering the wine market in China. In a high value marketplace such as the wine business, there is no end to creativity in labeling.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

In That Wine, There Is No Truth

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

Booze bootleggers are still quite active since there is a lot of money exchanging hands in the high-end wine and liquor business. Fake premium Penfolds wines, which can fetch several hundred dollars per bottle, as well as acclaimed brands of adulterated whisky, were discovered and seized in a liquor store in Cambodia. Besides the fake beverages, the raid also uncovered fake labels and packaging materials.

Resource

  1. Australian Associated Press (November 28, 2019). “Fake Penfolds wine seized in raid on bootlegging operation in Cambodia”.The Guardian.

 

 

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

It Is Natural, So It Is Good For You – Or Not?

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

In a large study of nearly 6000 products, more than a quarter (27%) of herbal medicines and foods sold in 37 countries on six continents was found to be deliberately or accidentally adulterated. In this study, the products, which came in a variety of forms such as softgels, tea and more, were analyzed with high throughput DNA sequencing and showed mislabeling, added fillers, substituted ingredients or contaminants. Such fraud can be a harmful to consumer health and safety, and must be monitored and tracked closely.

Resource

  1. Ichim, M.C. (October 24, 2019). “The DNA-Based Authentication of Commercial Herbal Products Reveals Their Globally Widespread Adulteration”. “Stejarul” Research Centre for Biological Sciences, National Institute of Research and Development for Biological Sciences, Piatra Neamt, Romania. Frontiers in Pharmacology. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2019.01227/full.
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Some Booze Is Going to the Dogs

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud, Dogs drinking cocktail
Records involving fraud can be found in the Food Fraud Database.

It is not really surprising that alcoholic beverages are the target of fraudsters. However, it is certainly not the norm to find counterfeited spirits in the heart of Europe sporting big brand names. Whether the products discovered at an illegal factory in Knockbridge, Ireland contain any adulterants other than ethyl alcohol is not known, however, a warning about potential danger to public health was issued, since the beverages were not made under controlled conditions.

Resource

Hutton, B. (March 30, 2019). “Warning issued about counterfeit alcohol after illegal factory uncovered in Co Louth”. The Irish Times. Accessed March 30, 2019. Retrieved from
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/warning-issued-about-counterfeit-alcohol-after-illegal-factory-uncovered-in-co-louth-1.3844401#.XKXBLDw3QKU.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee!

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Coffee, food fraud
Records involving fraud can be found in the Food Fraud Database.

Fraudulent food and beverage products can be found even in large supermarket chains. Counterfeit Starbucks VIA instant coffee was seized from Chinese supermarket chains in Beijing and Jinagsu province. Only Starbucks coffee shops and an authorized online retail platform are allowed to sell Starbucks instant coffee. The counterfeit products displayed (of course, fake) anti-forgery labels, different cover art, a different number of packs in each packet, a significantly longer expiration date, and ironically, a significantly higher retail price. The police arrested several suspects and found unsanitary conditions at the counterfeit coffee manufacturing site.

Resource

Paul, P. (March 19, 2019). Sale Of Fake Starbucks Coffee In Chinese Supermarkets Coming To An End.
Accessed March 19, 2019. Retrieved from https://www.ibtimes.com/sale-fake-starbucks-coffee-chinese-supermarkets-coming-end-2777043

Karen Everstine, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

What Is on the Food Fraud Horizon?

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

People like to ask “what is the next melamine?” Of course, this is an impossible question to answer. However, methods of perpetrating food fraud are rarely novel. Even melamine had a history of use in feed products for nitrogen enhancement.

Examples of recurring food fraud in recent history include:

Spices, food fraud
Spices continue to be a big target of food fraud.

Herbs and spices: High-value commodities, especially when sold in dried, flaked or ground form, have been targets of fraud for ages. Although recent work looking specifically at oregano shed new light on the problems in that particular herb, the group as a whole is long known to be prone to substitution with other plant material and addition of dyes to improve color. Lead chromate and lead oxide have both been used in spices to add color. A recent study in the United States conducted testing on spices recovered from the homes of children diagnosed with lead poisoning and determined that some lead poisoning cases can be attributed to high levels of lead in spices consumed by children.

Milk: Milk has been repeatedly prone to the addition of protein-mimicking compounds such as urea, the addition of other fats such as vegetable oil, and the addition of preservatives such as formaldehyde. Melamine addition to milk discovered in 2008 was not entirely novel. The addition of melamine to artificially enhance the apparent protein content of a product was documented in scientific papers in the 1980s.1

Meat: The two main concerns with meat fraud are species substitution and misrepresentation of production practices. The recent scandals involving horse meat and sick cows slaughtered for meat illustrate the continuing incentive to substitute less expensive species and to misrepresent the production practices of meat.

Liquor: Alcoholic beverages are also a high-value target, especially if they are a popular brand. Counterfeit alcohol is a common form of food fraud cited in the Food Fraud Database. Unfortunately, the use of methanol in unregulated liquor production repeatedly results in illnesses and deaths in consumers.

What forms of food fraud will be common in the coming years? Millennials reportedly place value on sustainability, convenience, high protein, and production practices such as organic and “local.” Verifying claims around production practices through long food supply chains is notoriously challenging. Increasing interest by consumers in these types of label claims may increase this type of fraud in the future.

Reference

  1. Bisaz, R., and A. Kummer. “Determination of 2, 4, 6-triamino-1, 3, 5-triazine (melamine) in potatoe proteins.” Mitt. Gebiete Lebensm. Hyg 74 (1983): 74-79.