Tag Archives: food fraud

World Factbook of Food

As Food Fraud Grows, More Comprehensive Tools Emerge

By Maria Fontanazza
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World Factbook of Food
World Factbook of Food
The World Factbook of Food is a central reference location for data related for food. (Click to enlarge image of homepage)

Many foods, from honey to olive oil to spices, fall victim to fraudsters each year. Often a time-consuming process, conducting research about each product or ingredient can involve combing through many websites and databases for information. To save companies from doing all that heavy lifting, newer tools are aggregating the data into single platforms. One most recent example is the World Factbook of Food, developed by the Food Protection and Defense Institute (FPDI) and funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The tool was released earlier this year, and Erin Mann, project manager at FPDI, explains how it is helping food companies mitigate the risk of food fraud in their supply chain.

Food Safety Tech: What are the fundamental advantages of using the World Factbook of Food and how is it different from other tools that companies can use to assess their risk?

Erin Mann: The World Factbook of Food is a central reference location for data related for food. It pulls together a lot of high quality data points from a lot of different sources into a single tool.

Companies can look for information on a lot of different food products and a lot of different sourcing regions and countries. We have more than 125 food profiles (and growing) and more than 75 country profiles (also growing). [There are 10 food profiles and 10 country profiles that are available for free] Each of the profiles covers a large number of topics. On the food profile side, there are data points on how the product is used, codes, information about standards and grades; and a lot of data about trends and consumption, production and trade patterns; there’s information about processing and supply chain characteristics; and another section about food defense and food safety.

Erin Mann, Food Protection and Defense Institute
Erin Mann, Food Protection and Defense Institute

It’s a resource that can be used anytime a company needs to get up to speed quickly on a product, because it covers a lot of different types of risks. If a company wanted access to information related to risk about past economically motivated adulteration (EMA) or intentional adulteration (IA) incidents, the Factbook has that. There’s also data on past recalls, information about major producing countries around the world—a wealth of information in one place that companies can use broadly for risk assessment—basically any use case where they want access to a lot of information from lots of sources, the Factbook can be a great place for that.

FST: Can you expand on the food defense component of the Factbook?

Mann: One of the primary sources that we pull for the food defense section comes from a complementary tool that we use here at FPDI—our food adulteration incidence registry, called the FAIR tool, which is a database of past EMA and IA incidents. On the technology side, the Factbook is directly linked with the FAIR tool. If you’re looking at a profile for a particular product, it will access the FAIR tool and display relevant incidents for that product. It won’t give you access to the entire FAIR database, but it will give you a high-level summary of what food defense incidents have happened in the past with the product, where they happened, the year and a summary.

What we’ve seen with the FAIR tool is high incidents of food adulteration in products like oils, spices, seafood—those are the major products impacted by food adulteration, particularly EMA.

Food Adulteration Incidents Registry
Food Adulteration Incidents Registry (FAIR) tool

FST: From what sources are the data curated?

Mann: There’s a source list at the bottom of each profile and all the data points are referenced throughout. In terms of a high-level description of where we pull data from, it includes the USDA, FDA, Codex, the U.S. International Trade commission, United Nations data, and other industry and trade groups. It also pulls data from the World Bank and the FAIR tool.

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FST: How can companies use the Factbook as part of their overall risk mitigation process?

Mann: One of primary strengths of the Factbook is that companies can use it in many different ways. Our institute has done a lot of work with big data and using multiple data sources, and one of the biggest takeaways we learned through several years in this field is that whenever you use big data or you use lots of data sources, they must produce intelligence and information that is actionable. All of the data and information doesn’t do much good if there’s not a clear summary of what to do with that information.

The Factbook aims to do that. It’s a collection and synthesis of data and clean information that’s in an easy to use and easy to navigate user interface. From there, companies can take a look and see how to use the Factbook where they see a gap in their processes. It’s a great place to access lots of information about a food product in a single place. If we can see several points in an overall risk mitigation process where the Factbook can be used, it could be used to inform decisions related to procurement. [For example], if a company suddenly needed to procure a product from a new source region or if they were developing a new product and had to procure an ingredient that they hadn’t worked with before, the Factbook would be a great place to get smart quickly on that ingredient.

The Factbook could be used for understanding supplier review and specific risks related to that ingredient, or simply horizon scanning—if companies want to take a look at some of the products they’ve determined to be high risk and learn more about the product from a holistic perspective.

As stated in the Q&A, 10 food profiles and 10 country profiles are available for free. Subscribers to the World Factbook of Food pay $600 annually for full access to the tool, and bundled pricing is available for users who are interested in access to both the Factbook and the FAIR tool.

Melody Ge, InstantLabs
FST Soapbox

Five Tips to Add Food Fraud Prevention To Your Food Defense Program

By Melody Ge
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Melody Ge, InstantLabs

Food defense is the protection of food products from intentional contamination or adulteration, as well as biological, chemical, physical or radiological agents. It addresses additional concerns including physical, personnel and operational security. A traditional food defense program is generally perceived as a program that includes site security, visitors control or even on-site personnel monitoring. However, with the new FSMA Preventive Controls Rules and GFSI Guidance for all the recognized schemes, additional to consumer demand on product transparency, we must now take food fraud into consideration within our food defense program.

What is food fraud? According to the study from Michigan State University, food fraud is a collective term used to encompass the deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging, or false misleading statements made about a product, for economic gain. It becomes not just a potential for food safety issues, but also a severe issue that could potentially damage your brand reputation. It is hence critical to have appropriate protection and prevention, as the umbrella encompasses both food defense and food safety.

What does this mean to food manufacturers? The awareness of traceability and transparency certainly should rise. Most facilities should have a food defense program in place to comply with any GMP or GFSI requirements. To make it more competent for food fraud, what could we do? Here are some quick tips to strengthen your food defense program with food fraud prevention:

  • Tip 1: Review your entire supply chain one more time, considering fraud risks
  • Tip 2: Use the HACCP concept for food fraud risk analysis
  • Tip 3: Double-check incoming goods
  • Tip 4: Make the entire supply chain transparent
  • Tip 5: Document all records

Tip 1: Review your entire supply chain one more time, considering fraud risks

The unknown could potentially hurt you or your program. You would prefer to be aware of what might go wrong before it goes wrong, which is why a review should be one of the key steps in your food safety program. It might be a familiar terminology in the industry; however, we could not eliminate its importance to your entire food safety management system. To maintain product authenticity, understanding where your ingredients come from and who your business partners and suppliers are become the first step to success. It also gives you an excellent opportunity to analyze the risks and potential risk sources. A thorough review should include all the approved suppliers and vendor information. Knowing the source of your product provides you with a good foundation for your food defense program. How can we efficiently review our own supply chain?

  • List all approved suppliers and contract vendors
  • Make sure all ingredients are used accordingly and as intended
  • Keep the supplier registration list up to date

The more you understand your own supply chain, the more helpful it will be to your food defense program.

Tip 2: Use HACCP concept for food fraud risk analysis within supply chain

Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), as defined by FDA, is a management system in which food safety is ensured by addressing through the analysis and control of biological, chemical and physical hazards throughout the entire supply chain. This mentality of HACCP could be used and very helpful to analyze the potential fraud risks. Its seven principles and 12 steps could be implemented to identify your own fraud risks. And it is important for us to identify the hazards from potentially adulterated ingredients to determine the next step for what needs to be controlled. Utilizing the 12 steps, we can list all the key points and steps that could potentially impact your products’ authenticity. The risks can come from personnel, visitors or the ingredients themselves. There are many resources out there; for example, US Pharmacopeia (USP) has developed a global food fraud database that is a good resource for all ingredients that have been falsely used in food products.

Tip 3: Double-check incoming goods

Many articles address the importance of vulnerability assessments to prevent food fraud plus any documentation your suppliers have provided. Yes, it is critical; however, as one of the important steps in the HACCP program, verification is also important to make sure what goes into your finished products is safe and guaranteed. This could be addressed and monitored by implementing genetic testing. Each product and ingredient has its own DNA, just like our fingerprints. Nowadays, there are many methodologies developed for this type of test. The DNA testing could be a helpful tool to help your facility verify the authenticity of your incoming raw materials. Genetic testing using techniques like polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology to detect the DNA of the product upon receiving the incoming goods. Moreover, as fast as it can be, facilities can now receive the test results within one to two hours. The testing itself might seem like an extra step with more effort and labor. However, the return is a huge saving on damages caused by food fraud. You can now start to verify and control your supply chain from the beginning to avoid any potential adulteration.

Tip 4: Make the entire supply chain transparent

This transparency not only applies to internal employees but also outward to your customers and vendors. That way you can familiarize yourself with your own supply chain, while at the same time establish brand reputation and confidence to your customers.

Tip 5: Keep all records documented

The records you should keep, besides a registration list of all your ingredients and vendors, should include the inventory list, how ingredients are used, whether it is used outside of its intended use and authorized personnel signatures. The following are some tips for an efficient document control:

  • Make it clear and straightforward
  • Categorize it based on your own facility operations
  • Keep the records in the same order of your supply chain from ingredients to end consumers

After all, with the newly released requirements, as QA professionals, we need to start developing a mindset that considers food fraud as a type of hazard, and develop monitor and control strategies for mitigating it. Just like we are now so familiar with the physical, chemical and biological hazards within our production facilities compared to decades ago, food fraud will no longer be a scary term once it is proficiently understood and properly controlled.

USP Food Fraud Database

Why Include Food Fraud Records in Your Hazard Analysis?

By Karen Everstine
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USP Food Fraud Database

Food fraud is a recognized threat to the quality of food ingredients and finished food products. There are also instances where food fraud presents a safety risk to consumers, such as when perpetrators add hazardous substances to foods (e.g., melamine in milk, industrial dyes in spices, known allergens, etc.).

FSMA’s Preventive Controls Rules require food manufacturers to identify and evaluate all “known or reasonably foreseeable hazards” related to foods produced at their facilities to determine if any hazards require a preventive control. The rules apply both to adulterants that are unintentionally occurring and those that may be intentionally added for economically motivated or fraudulent purposes. The FDA HARPC Draft Guidance for Industry includes, in Appendix 1, tables of “Potential Hazards for Foods and Processes.” As noted during the recent GMA Science Forum, FDA investigators conducting Preventive Controls inspections are using Appendix 1 “extensively.”

The tables in Appendix 1 include 17 food categories and are presented in three series:

  • Information that you should consider for potential food-related biological hazards
  • Information that you should consider for potential food-related chemical hazards
  • Information that you should consider for potential process-related hazards

According to the FDA draft guidance, chemical hazards can include undeclared allergens, drug residues, heavy metals, industrial chemicals, mycotoxins/natural toxins, pesticides, unapproved colors and additives, and radiological hazards.

USP develops tools and resources that help ensure the quality and authenticity of food ingredients and, by extension, manufactured food products. More importantly, however, these same resources can help ensure the safety of food products by reducing the risk of fraudulent adulteration with hazardous substances.

Incidents for dairy ingredients, food fraud
Geographic Distribution of Incidents for Dairy Ingredients. Graphic courtesy of USP.

Data from food fraud records from sources such as USP’s Food Fraud Database (USP FFD) contain important information related to potential chemical hazards and should be incorporated into manufacturers’ hazard analyses. USP FFD currently has data directly related to the identification of six of the chemical hazards identified by FDA: Undeclared allergens, drug residues, heavy metals, industrial chemicals, pesticides, and unapproved colors and additives. The following are some examples of information found in food fraud records for these chemical hazards.

Undeclared allergens: In addition to the widely publicized incident of peanuts in cumin, peanut products can be fraudulently added to a variety of food ingredients, including ground hazelnuts, olive oils, ground almonds, and milk powder. There have also been reports of the presence of cow’s milk protein in coconut-based beverages.

Drug residues: Seafood and honey have repeatedly been fraudulently adulterated with antibiotics that are not permitted for use in foods. Recently, beef pet food adulterated with pentobarbital was recalled in the United States.

Heavy metals: Lead, often in the form of lead chromate or lead oxide which add color to spices, is a persistent problem in the industry, particularly with turmeric.

Industrial Chemicals: Industrial dyes have been associated with a variety of food products, including palm oil, chili powder, curry sauce, and soft drinks. Melamine was added to both milk and wheat gluten to fraudulently increase the apparent protein content and industrial grade soybean oil sold as food-grade oil caused the deaths of thousands of turkeys.

Pesticides: Fraud in organic labeling has been in the news recently. Also concerning is the detection of illegal pesticides in foods such as oregano due to fraudulent substitution with myrtle or olive leaves.

Unapproved colors/additives: Examples include undeclared sulfites in unrefined cane sugar and ginger, food dyes in wine, and tartrazine (Yellow No. 5) in tea powder.

Adulteration, chili powder, skim milk powder, olive oil
Time Series Plot of Records for Chili Powder (blue), Skim Milk Powder (green), and Olive Oil (orange)

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Honey, adulteration

The Honey Trap: Analytical Technology Makes Food Fraud Easier to Catch

By Christopher Brodie
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Honey, adulteration

Because of its high nutritional value and distinctive flavor, natural honey is a premium product with a price tag significantly higher than that of other sweeteners. As a result, honey is often the target of adulteration using low-cost invert sugar syrups. This article looks at two analytical approaches based on isotope fingerprint analysis using isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) that can be used to detect honey adulteration and safeguard product integrity.

Honey is a complex mixture of sugars, proteins and other compounds, produced in nature by honeybees from flower nectar or honeydew. The extent to which its sugars are present is heavily dependent on the floral source and differs significantly between honeys produced in different regions. Climate, processing and storage conditions can also have an effect on the amounts of these sugars.1

Fructose and glucose are the major components of honey, and account for 85–95% of the total sugars present. The remaining carbohydrates are a mixture of disaccharides, trisaccharides, and larger oligosaccharides, which give individual honeys their own characteristic taste.

These distinctive flavors, combined with honey’s renowned nutritional benefits and a growing consumer demand for natural, healthy ingredients, have contributed to a substantial increase in honey sales over the past few decades. However, this demand has also helped to raise costs, with some varieties, such as Manuka honey, reportedly selling for as much as $35 for a 250 gm jar.

Just like many other food products that have a premium price tag, intentional adulteration is a significant concern for the honey industry. The fraudulent addition of cheaper sweeteners, such as sugar derived from cane, corn and beet sources, to extend product sales, is unfortunately common within the marketplace.

Honey producers and suppliers therefore require reliable and accurate analytical techniques to profile the composition of honey to identify cases of adulteration. Using analytical data, honey adulteration and counterfeiting can be routinely identified and product integrity can be maintained.

Carbon Isotope Fingerprints of Honey

Analysis of honey is commonly undertaken using isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) for the detection of adulteration. Honey has a fingerprint, a unique chemical signature that allows it to be identified. To visualize this fingerprint, IRMS can be used to identify the botanical origin of its constituent sugars.

Two ways that carbon can be incorporated into plants by photosynthetic CO2 fixation are the Calvin cycle (also known as the C3 cycle) and Hatch-Slack cycle (the C4 cycle). The nectar used by bees to produce honey comes from plants that produce sugars via the C3 pathway, while the sugars derived from sugar cane and corn are produced by the C4 pathway.

Carbon naturally exists as two stable isotopes that behave in the same way, but possess different atomic mass numbers. Carbon-12 is the most abundant in nature (98.9%), whereas carbon-13 is far less common (1.1%). By measuring the ratio of carbon-13 to carbon-12 (13C/12C) using IRMS, the carbon isotope fingerprint of the honey can be determined. As more carbon-13 is incorporated in sugars produced by the C4 pathway, the adulteration of honey with sugar cane and fructose corn syrups, rich in C4 sugars, can be detected.

In unadulterated honey, the carbon isotope fingerprint will be similar to that of the natural protein precipitated from the honey. However, if cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup has been added, the isotope fingerprint of honey and protein will be significantly different.

Detection of Adulteration by EA-IRMS

One approach that has traditionally been used for the detection of honey adulteration is elemental analysis interfaced with IRMS (EA-IRMS).2 This highly robust, rapid and cost-effective technique is able to reliably detect the addition of C4 sugars in honey at levels down to 7%.3 The analytical approach complies with the official method for the analysis of C4 sugars in honey, AOAC method 998.12.4

In EA-IRMS, bulk honey is combusted in the presence of pure oxygen to form CO2 for analysis. The CO2 produced from the combustion of the bulk honey, including all sugars and the protein fraction, is analyzed by IRMS. Figure 1 shows carbon isotope fingerprints of four unique samples, including bulk honey and the proteins extracted from those honeys, determined using an EA-IRMS system. In each case of adulteration, shown in the grey columns, the honey δ13C value becomes more positive relative to the protein value, moving towards the carbon isotope fingerprint of C4 plants. The natural variation of δ13C in honey is shown by the red lines.5

Figure 1. Carbon isotope fingerprints of bulk honey and protein fractions from those honeys. The red lines show the natural variation of δ13C in honey.2

Detection of Adulteration by LC-IRMS

While EA-IRMS can be used to identify cases of honey adulteration using the bulk sample, the analysis of low levels of added C4 sugars and C3 sugars (i.e., beet sugars) to honey reveal that a compound specific technique with more powerful separation capabilities is needed. Furthermore, as fraudsters develop more sophisticated adulteration techniques and effective ways of concealing their actions, it can be necessary to utilize other IRMS techniques.

Much lower limits of adulteration detection can be obtained from liquid chromatography interfaced with IRMS (LC-IRMS). This technique permits the analysis of very small sample amounts without the need for extensive preparation or derivatization, and can also identify C3 sugar adulteration, which EA-IRMS cannot readily achieve, and therefore serves as a strong, complimentary isotope fingerprint technique. There are IRMS portfolios available that allow for sequential automated analysis of both analytical techniques.

Using LC-IRMS, the sample is oxidized within the aqueous solvent eluting from the HPLC column. The oxidation reagent consists of two solutions: The oxidizing agent itself and phosphoric acid. Both are pumped separately and added to the mobile phase. Within this mixture, all individual organic compounds eluting from the HPLC column are oxidized quantitatively into CO2 upon passing through a heated reactor. In a downstream separation unit, the generated CO2 is then separated from the liquid phase and carried by a stream of helium gas. The individual CO2 peaks in the helium are subsequently dried in an on-line gas drying unit and admitted to the isotope ratio mass spectrometer via an open split interface.

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Dollar

Food Authenticity Market to Hit $8.3 Billion by 2023

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Dollar

As global competition continues to grow and supply dwindles in many areas, food fraud is a major concern. The value of the food authenticity market, which was around $5 billion last year, is expected to reach $8.3 billion by 2023, achieving a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.7%, according to Allied Market Research.

Last year, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology took up about one third of the market and is expected to achieve a 8.3% CAGR from 2017 to 2023. Processed food (includes infant formula, packaged food, wine, and bakery and confectionary products) accounted for another third of the global market from a revenue standpoint. Meat speciation is expected to achieve the highest revenue growth, with a 8.2% CAGR.

According to Allied Market Research, Asia-Pacific is expected to experience the highest growth between 2017 and 2023, while Europe continues to lead the worldwide market in this area. North America, which is the second-leading revenue contributor worldwide, is anticipated to achieve a 7.4% CAGR in revenue.

Minimizing Hazards and Fraud in Milk, IBM Research Partners with Cornell University

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Americans consume an estimated 600 pounds of milk and milk-based products annually, according to the USDA. In an effort to minimize the hazards in the milk supply and prevent food fraud, IBM Research and Cornell University are joining forces. Combining next-generation sequencing with bioinformatics, the research project will collect genetic data from the microbiome of raw milk samples in a real-world situation at the Cornell University dairy plant and farm in Ithaca, New York.

Specifically, IBM and Cornell will sequence and analyze the DNA and RNA of food microbiomes, which will serve as a raw milk baseline, to develop tools that monitor raw milk and detect abnormalities that could indicate safety hazards and potential fraud. The data collected may also be used to expand existing bioinformatics analytical tools used by the Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain, a project that was launched by IBM Research and Mars, Inc. at the beginning of 2015.

“As nature’s most perfect food, milk is an excellent model for studying the genetics of food. As a leader in genomics research, the Department of Food Science expects this research collaboration with IBM will lead to exciting opportunities to apply findings to multiple food products in locations worldwide.” – Martin Wiedmann, Gellert Family Professor in Food Safety, Cornell University.

“Characterizing what is ‘normal’ for a food ingredient can better allow the observation of when something goes awry,” said Geraud Dubois, director of the Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain, IBM Research – Almaden, in a press release. “Detecting unknown anomalies is a challenge in food safety and serious repercussions may arise due to contaminants that may never have been seen in the food supply chain before.”

Cornell University is the first academic institution to join the Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain.

Food Safety Supply Chain panel 2017

Industry Experts Weigh in on Supply Chain Issues

By Maria Fontanazza
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Food Safety Supply Chain panel 2017

The Food Safety Supply Chain conference brought together industry stakeholders from FDA, CFSAN, GFSI’s certification programs, academia and food companies to discuss strategies and challenges of the supply chain in a more complex global environment. The two-day event was held earlier this month at U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention in Rockville, Maryland. Here’s what some of the speakers had to say.

(Click images to enlarge)

Sharon Mayl, FDA You can’t build safety at the border; you have to build in safety before you get to the border… The Foreign Supplier Verification rule requires importers for first time to share responsibility of products that are coming into country. We have written this rule with a lot of flexibility. – Sharon Mayl, senior advisor for policy to the deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, FDA, on the FSMA FSVP rule
Jennifer Thomas, CFSAN Transportation of food is a piece that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it’s a very important part in ensuring the safety of food…[FDA is] in the process of developing a small entities compliance guide. We’re also revising the guidance we did in 2010 to ensure that it’s consistent with the rule. – Jennifer Thomas, director, division of enforcement, office of compliance, CFSAN, on the FSMA Sanitary Transportation of Human Food rule

Food fraud can lead to a public health threat—and should be managed under a food safety management system. – John Spink, Ph.D., director and assistant professor, Michigan State University, on supply chain transparency and food fraud

Russell Statman, Registrar Corp. When you’re looking at the Foreign Supplier Verification Program, you also have to approve your suppliers. There are several aspects to this—you have to check their record with FDA, whether they have any warning letters or on import alert. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy from them, it just means you have to investigate what the problem is. – Russell Statman, executive director, Registrar Corp., on the FSVP rule
FDA doesn’t have jurisdiction over aquaculture farms. So we’re working with countries that do. Any country that has a significant industry has good aquaculture practice programs (GAqP)— every country now has one—so we’re working with them now to make them better. ­– Brett Koonse, consumer safety officer, FDA, on aquaculture and food safety Brett Koonse, FDA

[The Sanitary Transportation of Human Food rule is important because of] the role that transportation has played in the past regarding foodborne outbreaks. We have to be proactive. We can’t learn from our mistakes anymore. – Debby Newslow, president, DL Newslow & Associates

Food Safety Supply Chain panel 2017
(left to right) John Wadie of 3M Food Safety, Melanie Neumann, Terry Levee and Jorge Hernandez

Food safety should not be about just meeting the regulations. Suppliers must still meet the standards of your business.  – Jorge Hernandez, chief food safety officer, Wholesome International

Collaboration and partnership are the only way your going to gain the transparency you need in the supply chain and build your brand for the protection it needs. – Melanie Neumann, president and global food safety attorney, Neumann Risk Services, LLC

One of reasons retailers take [visibility] seriously is that we’re the last line of defense. If you buy something at the grocery store and you get sick, you don’t remember the manufacturer of the product, you remember where you [bought] the product. – Terry Levee, senior director of food safety, Giant Eagle

Food fraud

Mitigating Food Fraud: Top Tips

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Food fraud

The complimentary webinar, Top Tips to Mitigate Food Fraud, takes place on June 22 at 1 pm ET. Register now.Recently, the topic of food fraud has been discussed with increasing urgency. From understanding the basics of what is food fraud to navigating the regulatory requirements, quality assurance, compliance and procurement professionals must have a general understanding of the components.

An upcoming free webinar will review the hazard analysis requirements surrounding the FSMA Preventive Control for Human Food, GFSI requirements for raw materials and risk assessments and food fraud mitigation plans. Attendees will also learn about food fraud mitigation implementation strategies. The speakers participating in this webinar are Jeff Chilton, vice president of professional services at Alchemy Systems and Peter Claise, marketing director for foods programs at USP.

Jennifer van de Ligt, Food Protection and Defense Institute, University of Minnesota
FST Soapbox

Hot Topics in Intentional Adulteration, Food Fraud and Food Crime

By Jennifer van de Ligt, Ph.D.
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Jennifer van de Ligt, Food Protection and Defense Institute, University of Minnesota

The Food Protection and Defense Institute held its annual Food Defense Conference on May 3 and 4. This unique conference focused on food fraud detection, food crime, intentional adulteration FSMA updates, advocacy for food protection and defense, and big data and how to use it. The event garnered active discussion and collaboration among speakers and attendees representing six international government agencies, 11 domestic federal, state and local government agencies, 33 private food sector partners, and many academic partners.

The keynote address by Andy Morling, head of the UK National Food Crime Unit, led off the conference with discussion on food fraud and food crime. He profiled the tremendous work being taken to bridge the food regulatory and criminal systems to curb food crime in the UK. The UK response to food crime is guided by the 4P approach: Prevent, Protect, Prepare and Pursue. The Protect (reducing vulnerabilities) and Prepare (investing in capacity and capability building) components of the 4P approach embody key concepts of successful food defense plans.

Economically Motivated Adulteration and Food Fraud will be discussed at the Food Safety Supply Chain Conference | June 5–6, 2017 | Learn moreThe food crime discussion was followed by insight on food fraud detection in the European Union from Franz Ulberth, Ph.D., head of the Fraud Detection and Prevention Unit at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. This included results from Operation Opson in which Europol and INTERPOL coordinated with 61 countries. The goal of Operation Opson is to protect public health and safety through international cooperation to combat counterfeit and substandard food and drink. In Operation Opson VI, more than 9,800 tons, 26.4 million liters, and 13 million units/items of potentially hazardous food worth an estimated €230 million were seized between December 2016 and March 2017. The scope of products seized spans the range of all foods and beverages such as mineral water, alcohol, olive oil, seasonings, seafood and caviar, and includes both every day and luxury items. In addition, Dr. Ulberth outlined key characteristics of food fraud, the most common foods susceptible to fraud, and types of vulnerability and mitigation in the food fraud area.

Defense against food fraud through the use of genomics and ingredient supply chain understanding were presented by Robert Hanner of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph and Cheryl Deem, executive director of the American Spice Trade Association, respectively. Genomics have been particularly helpful in identifying and quantifying the prevalence of seafood fraud. The most common seafood fraud is when one species of seafood is marketed and sold as a different species. The primary driver for this deception is to promote lower quality or illegal seafood species as a species of higher quality, premium location, or simply allowed in commerce. The genomics technique has been used successfully in the food fraud arena. It identified puffer fish, which produces a toxin, being deceptively marketed as monkfish. The accurate identification allowed public health officials to confirm that consumer illnesses accompanying this deception were caused by puffer fish toxin consumption. Similar to analytical techniques, supply chain understanding can help protect food manufacturers and consumers from food fraud. For example, major spice providers worked together to develop a guide to identification and prevention of adulteration because spices are often a target for adulteration. One aspect of the guide is a decision tree used to protect against supply chain vulnerabilities.

The conference also featured the authors of the FSMA Mitigation Strategies to Protect Against Intentional Adulteration Rule. They are part of the Food Defense and Emergency Coordination Staff at CFSAN. The author of the Intentional Adulteration rule discussed updated information on FDA efforts to develop both guidance for industry and training materials to support implementation of the regulation. In addition, they provided insight on the use of key activity types as an appropriate method for vulnerability assessments. For inspection and compliance, the authors indicated a two-step approach will be taken. The two-step approach will include a quick check at all registered facilities that is followed by a food defense inspection at a limited number of prioritized facilities. Inspection will occur in a tiered and staged approach after compliance dates pass. The FDA presentation at the Food Defense Conference was the launch of the new information campaign with additional detail and insight on guidance, training, inspection and vulnerability assessment approaches.

The knowledge and passion of the professionals gathered at the conference allowed appreciation of and connection between the incredible global efforts dedicated to improving defense and protection of the food system. The future of food defense to protect and create a resilient food system will be assured by continued efforts and expertise shared like those at this conference.

Food Fraud

Mitigating Food Fraud Is Complex, But Not Impossible

By Maria Fontanazza
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Food Fraud

Nearly 10% of the food supply is affected by food fraud, yet many food companies are not well equipped to deal with the problem, according to a survey cited by SSAFE at USP’s recent Food Fraud Mitigation Hands-on Workshop. Nearly 40% of companies said it is easy for fraudsters to fake their food products and about one-third named gaps in supply chain transparency as a fraud vulnerability problem. In addition, about one third of respondents were unaware of whether their suppliers have been part of a criminal offense.

How secure is your supply chain? Learn how to mitigate these risks at the Food Safety Supply Chain conference | June 5-6, 2017

Food fraud is defined as the intentional misrepresentation of the true identity or contents of a food ingredient or product for economic gain, said Janet Balson, senior food safety consultant at USP. In many cases, adulteration cannot be detected by visual inspection alone. Companies must look at the susceptibility of certain ingredients and products (common targets include olive oil, honey, milk, chicken, tea, spices and fish), potential economic gain, and vulnerabilities in the supply chain. Since only a small amount of fraud cases are detected, it is important to conduct a thorough vulnerability assessment that examines the supply chain, QA methods, testing frequency, audits, supplier history, and historical, geo-political and economic factors, and from there, a multi-disciplinary team can develop an appropriate control plan based on the level of risk.

Food companies can leverage several tools (they also work in a complementary fashion) to identify and assess potential hazards in ingredients and products, including EMAlert, USP’s Food Fraud Database 2.0 and SSAFE’s Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment tool. Arcchana Patil, senior manager of food safety & defense, QRC at The Hershey Company and Samantha Cooper, manager of food safety & quality assurance at GMA compared several of these platforms, offering a few tips on their capabilities and how companies can make the best use of the tools.

  • USP Food Fraud Database 2.0: Contains almost 7,000 food fraud records and allows searching of records by ingredient. Helps in the process of evaluating food fraud vulnerability. Its customizable dashboard and search function update users on new records. The platform also provides automated analytics tools. The tool is best used by subject matter experts, a group or by food fraud and food defense teams.
  • EMAlert: A real-time predictive model for economically motivated adulteration that quantitatively analyzes vulnerability for a group of ingredients based on weights given by users. Commodity data for each attribute is continuously updated. It provides a good platform for commodity scanning for sourcing and procurement teams. The tool is best used by subject matter experts, a group or by food fraud and food defense teams.
  • SSAFE Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment: Available in 10 languages, it provides a good starting point for companies to assess their vulnerability at an ingredient, product, brand, facility, country or company-wide level. It identifies vulnerabilities to enable mitigation, but it does not offer mitigation techniques. The tool can be applied throughout the supply chain, from feed and primary production to manufacturing and catering. It can be used by different segments of the supply chain, along with corporate, but it is best used by cross-functional teams in quality, lab, procurement, legal and manufacturing.
  • World Factbook of Food: With more than 130 foods and 75 country profiles, the Factbook data is curated from a variety of sources to assist in risk assessment. The repository of food and country profile contains product uses, consumption, production and trade information, along with population, economy, climate and governance.
  • Food Adulteration Incidents Registry: Containing more than 550 unique incidents of food fraud and intentional adulteration, the registry provides verified event information to support vulnerability assessments. The platform uses a repository of open data records.

The shortage of food due to climate, environmental and political changes will put further pressure on the availability of certain ingredients and is likely to cause an uptick in food fraud. However, there are more tools than ever before to help companies deal with this problem, but the key is to try to stay one step ahead. As the speakers and attendees at the USP workshop reflected on the issue, they shared their predictions on where they see food fraud headed in the near term:

  • Companies will need to use technology to push further into their supply chains (i.e., tier two or three) where there is a higher risk.
  • The implementation of blockchain technology will make it more difficult for fraudsters to fake data, especially with processed foods.
  • The food industry will be able to learn from other industries that have counterfeiting issues, such as the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Use of smarter complementary tools that fight food fraud will help companies better mitigate risks and intervene more swiftly.