Tag Archives: food fraud

Karen Everstine, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

What Is on the Food Fraud Horizon?

By Karen Everstine, Ph.D.
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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.
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Rabbit Food?

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Rabbit, burger, food fraud
Records involving fraud can be found in the Food Fraud Database. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

While “ketchup” made from carrot pulp does not exactly sound inedible (however, mislabeling in conjunction with food allergies comes to mind), other discoveries made during a raid in a ketchup factory in Pakistan brought food safety and hygiene violations to light. The factory was temporarily shut down after several violations and additional food adulterants, including acetic  acid and Monosodium Glutamate, were discovered.

Resource

  1. Tomato ketchup made from carrot pulp being sold in Karachi
    Arif, K. (March 07, 2019). Tomato ketchup made from carrot pulp being sold in Karachi. Accessed March 7, 2019. Retrieved from https://arynews.tv/en/ketchup-carrot-pulp-karachi/
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Ghee Whiz!

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis

Ghee, the glorious clarified butter leading a creamy buttery flavor to dishes and widely used in Asian cooking, is now also target for food fraud. Real ghee is based on pure butterfat extracted usually from cow’s milk, without impurities or additives. In Surajpole, India, an adulterated ghee operation was seized that used refined soybean oil and added butter flavor, which may have created a health hazard.

Resource

  1. Unit producing spurious ghee raided in Surajpole. (February 25, 2019). Accessed February 28, 2019. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/now-spurious-ghee-manufacturing-unitraided/articleshow/68142661.cms
AOAC International

AOAC Sinks Teeth into Cannabis Testing, Launches Food Fraud Program

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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AOAC International

Last week Cannabis Industry Journal, a sister publication of Food Safety Tech, published its interview with AOAC International officials about the organization’s commitment to cannabis lab testing, where it sees this area headed in the future and the launch of its food authenticity and fraud program. AOAC first entered the realm of cannabis testing a few years ago and is making strides to get further involved with “methods regarding chemical contaminants in cannabis, cannabinoids in various foods and consumables, as well as microbial organisms in cannabis,” according to the article. AOAS also recently launched a food authenticity and fraud program to develop standards and methods geared toward economically adulterated foods. Read more about AOAC’s latest development on the food front as well as its push in cannabis lab testing in the article, “Spotlight on AOAC: New Leadership, New Initiatives in Cannabis and Food”.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

In Wine, There Is Not Always Truth

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Wine
Records involving wine fraud can be found in the Food Fraud Database. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Three arrests were made and at least 11,000 bottles of red wine labeled high-quality IGT Toscana wines have been seized in Italy for containing lower quality wines and fraudulent labeling, misrepresenting the wine’s geographic origin. The investigation was taken to the Europol level in conjunction with German and Italian law enforcement authorities.

Resource

Authorities shutdown international wine fraud operation; three in Italy arrested. Food Safety News. Accessed February 19, 2019.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Bee Careful What You Eat

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud, honey
These types of records can be found in the Food Fraud Database
Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

One of China’s most famous health brands has been banned from making honey and issued a steep fine in China after selling expired honey. For a long time, the brand’s “Premium” honey was a supposedly safe alternative in China compared to “fake” honey, mixed with sugar syrup.

Resource

Executives of TCM company in trouble over honey
Wen, X. (February 13, 2019). Executives of TCM company in trouble over honey. Accessed February 13, 2019. Retrieved from http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201902/13/WS5c635b26a3106c65c34e8fba.html

Karen Everstine, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

How Food Fraud Happens

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

The food industry has been hard at work over the past few years implementing food fraud mitigation plans in response to Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certification program requirements. GFSI defines food fraud as:

“A collective term encompassing the deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging, labelling, product information or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain that could impact consumer health.” (GFSI Benchmarking Requirements, 2017)

GFSI then further defines the terminology of food fraud by citing seven categories (shown in the following diagram).

GFSI, Food Fraud
Used with permission from GFSI

In the Food Fraud Database, we categorize food fraud records using the following terminology (with examples):

  • Dilution/substitution
    • Substitution of an entire fish fillet or partial dilution of olive oil with another oil
  • Artificial enhancement
    • Addition of melamine to artificially increase the apparent protein content of milk or the addition of coloring agents to spices
  • Use of undeclared, unapproved, or banned biocides
    • The use of chloramphenicol in honeybee populations (where not permitted) or the addition of hydrogen peroxide to milk
  • Removal of authentic constituents
    • The sale of “spent” spice powder (used in the production of an oleoresin) as a whole spice powder
  • Misrepresentation of nutritional value
    • Infant formula that does not contain the required nutritional content
  • Fraudulent labeling claims
    • Misrepresentation of label attributes related to production method (organic, kosher, halal, etc.)
  • Formulation of an entirely fraudulent product (using multiple adulterants and methods)
    • The sale of “100% apple juice” that consists of sugar, water, malic acid, flavor, and color
  • Other
    • This includes counterfeits, theft, overruns, etc.

Harmonization of food fraud terminology is frequently discussed, so I thought it might be useful to provide information on how our definitions relate to the GFSI terminology:

GFSI category “Dilution”: This category maps directly to our category dilution/substitution. The reason we combine these into one category is that the intent is the same: To replace the weight or volume of a product. This can occur either through partial or full substitution of a liquid product, a granulated product, or swapping an entire intact product such as a fish filet. One of the GFSI examples for substitution is “sunflower oil partially substituted with mineral oil”, which could just as accurately be described as dilution.

GFSI category “Substitution”: As noted above, this category maps directly to our category dilution/substitution. However, we would not consider the use of hydrolyzed leather protein in milk (one of the cited examples) to be dilution/substitution because it is not used to replace weight or volume. We would view that as artificial enhancement of the protein content of milk.

GFSI category “Concealment”: We do not include a category focused on concealment because all food fraud involves concealing some aspect of the true contents of the food. One of the examples cited in this category is “poultry injected with hormones to conceal disease.” The use of antibiotics, anti-fungal agents or other substances to reduce bacterial load or mask deterioration would be classified, in our system, as the use of undeclared, unapproved or banned biocides. The use of coloring agents on fruit to improve appearance would also be classified as artificial enhancement.

GFSI category “Mislabeling”: Since all food fraud is, to some extent, mislabeling, we reserve the use of the term fraudulent labeling claims to those label attributes that describe production processes (organic, kosher, etc.). With the exception of falsification of expiration dates, the other examples cited would not be classified by us as mislabeling. The sale of Japanese star anise, which is potentially toxic, as Chinese star anise (a different species) is dilution/substitution and a health risk to consumers. The sale of cooking oil that has been recovered from waste streams and illegally produced is also a form of substitution that poses a potential health risk to consumers.

GFSI category “Unapproved enhancements”: This GFSI category aligns nicely with our category artificial enhancement, and both examples cited are nicely illustrative of the concept, which involves the fraudulent addition of a substance specifically for its function (not as a replacement for weight or volume).

GFSI Category “Gray market production/theft/diversion”: The production and sale of food products through unregulated channels would all be classified in our category called other. Because these forms of food fraud involve the sale of food outside of regulatory control, prevention measures will generally be substantially different from the prevention of fraud within legitimate supply chains.

GFSI Category Counterfeiting: This GFSI category is similar to the gray market production/theft/diversion category in that it involves intellectual property infringement and production outside of regulatory control. It would similarly be classified in our other category.

Decernis

Decernis Announces Food Fraud Quick Bites and Resource Center

Decernis

Decernis has announced its monthly column Food Fraud Quick Bites and a Resource Center focus on Food Fraud with partner Food Safety Tech. The monthly column is written by Decernis Senior Manager of Scientific Affairs, Karen Everstine, Ph.D., who is also a member of the FST Advisory Board. It provides commentary on recent incidents in food fraud, published papers and approaches to evaluating risk.

“Reports are likely just a fraction of the true occurrence of food fraud. A holistic assessment of food fraud vulnerability should take into account a wide variety of sources of information including media reports,” stated Everstine in a company press release. Dr. Ruud Overbeek, Chief of Strategy and Business Development at Decernis LLC stated, “The Food Fraud Database benefits all involved in the industry including retailers, manufacturers, and suppliers. The Food Fraud Quick Bites will provide an immediate update and perspective on recent happenings.”

Karen Everstine, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Media Sources for Food Fraud Intelligence

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

A recently published paper advocates the inclusion of media reports as a source of information for assessing food fraud vulnerability.1 Those of us who maintain the Food Fraud Database could not agree more. We have been monitoring media reports for years and they are an important source of information in the database (accounting for 45% of all primary source references).

As I mentioned in last month’s post, there are challenges with using media reports to inform food fraud vulnerability. Many media reports are general discussions of the issue of food fraud and are not necessarily reporting new information. It may be difficult to filter out these types of reports without manual review. There may also be concerns about the validity of media reports on food fraud. This is the reason we implemented a classification for “weight of evidence” for incident records in the database. Overall, approximately 30% of the incident records in our database are classified as a “low” weight of evidence due to unverifiable data or a lack of corroborating reports. Some of our users choose to filter these out of their searches.

We have received requests for information about how the data in the Food Fraud Database compares with numbers reported in the paper. Table 11 in the paper described the top product categories, countries and type of fraud as reported in four food safety tracking systems.1 We have adapted that table below to data from the Food Fraud Database.

Product Category % Country of Origin % Type %
Meat/Poultry 18 India 26 Dilution/substitution (misrepresentation of animal origin) 26
Seafood 16 China 9 Dilution/substitution (“other”) 19
Dairy Products 14 United States 9 Dilution/substitution with a non-food substance 14
Alcoholic Beverages 6 Columbia 6 Dilution/substitution (misrepresentation of botanical origin) 12
The most common food fraud records (“cases”) in the Food Fraud Database (2014-2015)

As shown in Table 11 in the paper, the top four products by number of articles in the media monitoring system (in 2014-2015) were meat, seafood, milk and alcohol. As shown above, when looking at data in the Food Fraud Database from 2014 and 2015, the top ingredient categories are very similar: Meat/Poultry, Seafood, Dairy Products, and Alcoholic Beverages. However, there was little agreement in the country of origin of the reported cases among any of the systems. For the Food Fraud Database (shown above), the top countries of origin in 2014–2015 were India, China, the United States and Colombia. According to the paper, the top countries of origin reported by the food fraud media monitoring system were Egypt, the United States, the U.K. and Saudi Arabia. The top country of origin reported by RASFF was China and by HorizonScan was the Czech Republic.

Table 4 reported the “types” of food fraud (which correspond to what we call “reasons for adulteration”) and the corresponding number of articles collected, which we have also adapted to the data in the Food Fraud Database below.

Types of Food Fraud in Records in the Food Fraud Database (2014–2015)
Type of Food Fraud Number of Records %
Dilution/substitution – misrepresentation of animal origin 212 26
Dilution/substitution (other) 159 19
Dilution/substitution with a substance not approved for use in foods 118 14
Dilution/substitution – misrepresentation of botanical origin 101 12
Unknown 87 11
Fraudulent labeling 64 8
Artificial enhancement of apparent protein content 58 7
Artificial enhancement with color additives 57 7
Other 41 5
Dilution/substitution – misrepresentation of geographic origin 40 5
Dilution/substitution – misrepresentation of varietal origin 28 3
Use of unapproved biocides (antibiotics, anti-fungal agents, preservatives, etc.) 21 3
Artificial enhancement (other) 7 1
Formulation of an entirely fraudulent product using multiple techniques and adulterants 2 0
TOTAL 828 *
* Greater than 100% because one record can have multiple types of associated fraud

It is not possible to make meaningful comparisons among the reported fraud “types” without harmonized definitions and standardization of data collection processes, as noted in the paper. A glance at Table 1 from the paper illustrates the variety of food fraud categorizations in use among the various systems.1 Generally, it is a challenge to directly compare any of the information coming from various sources such as RASFF, HorizonScan, the Food Fraud Database and others, due to the differences in the way data is collected, standardized and reported.

In contrast with foodborne illnesses, which are generally required to be reported to public health agencies, food fraud typically does not result in acute illness and is difficult to track. The nature of food fraud combined with differences in data tracking systems make it almost impossible to reconcile the data among the various systems. Regardless of which system is reporting, the reports are likely just a fraction of the true occurrence of food fraud; however, each can provide valuable perspective on risks to food safety (including those from food fraud). A holistic assessment of food fraud vulnerability should take into account a wide variety of information sources, including media reports.

Reference

  1. Bouzembrak, Y., et al. (November 2018). Development of food fraud media monitoring system based on text mining. Food Control. Vol. 93. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodcont.2018.06.003
magnifying glass

Food Safety Tech’s Best of 2018

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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magnifying glass

The end of the year is always a time of reflection. At Food Safety Tech, it is also a time when we like to share with you, our readers, the most popular articles over the last 12 months. Enjoy, and thank you to our loyal and new readers, as well as our contributors!

10. Three Practices for Supply Chain Management in the Food Industry

By Kevin Hill, Quality Scales Unlimited

9. Food Investigations: Microanalytical Methods Find Foreign Matter in Granular Food Products

By Mary Stellmack, McCrone Associates, Inc,

8. Stephen Ostroff to Retire from FDA, Walmart’s Frank Yiannas to Take the Reins

By Food Safety Tech Staff

7. FDA Inspections: Top Five Violations for FY2017

By Food Safety Tech Staff

6. Is There Any End in Sight for the E.Coli Outbreak in Romaine Lettuce?

By Food Safety Tech Staff

5. CDC Alert: Do Not Eat Romaine Lettuce, Throw It Out

By Food Safety Tech Staff

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

By Melody Ge, Kestrel Management

3. 5 Problems Facing the Global Supply Chain

By Sean Crossey, arc-net

2. FDA: 172 Ill, 1 Death, Romaine Lettuce E. Coli Outbreak Likely Over

By Food Safety Tech Staff

1. Romaine Lettuce Outbreak: We Knew It Would Get Bad Quickly

By Maria Fontanazza, Food Safety Tech