Tag Archives: food fraud

Karen Everstine, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

A Different Type of Food Fraud

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

Food Fraud: Problem Solved? Learn more at the 2019 Food Safety Supply Chain Conference | May 29–30, 2019 | Attend in Rockville, MD or virtually The typical motivation for food fraud is replacing a more expensive ingredient with a less expensive one, thereby increasing profits or competitiveness on the market. Another form of fraud involves the use of active pharmaceutical ingredients in products marketed as dietary supplements or foods containing dietary supplements.

Last month, an instant coffee drink purportedly containing “natural herbs” tongkat ali, guarana, and maca was reported to actually contain two pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) approved by the FDA for the treatment of male erectile dysfunction. In this case, the motivation for fraud is “spiking” with the “intent to impart an effect that cannot be achieved by the dietary ingredients alone.” This is an ongoing challenge for regulators and other stakeholders who work to ensure the safety of the supplements market. This type of fraud in dietary supplements is also an important health risk to consumers, since unintentional consumption of APIs can result in unintended side effects or adverse interactions with other drugs. A quick glance at the FDA’s Medication Health Fraud Page illustrates how common this type of adulteration is, most notably in products advertised for erectile dysfunction, weight loss and sports performance.

In March, an energy drink was banned in Zambia after Ugandan authorities determined it contained sildenafil citrate (the active ingredient in Viagra). In 2015, Chinese authorities investigated distillers of a popular liquor under suspicion of adding the same substance. Adding to the challenge of this type of fraud is the fact that certain consumers may view food and dietary supplement products containing APIs as more appealing, not less.

Both manufacturers and consumers should use good judgment when purchasing dietary supplements or foods marketed as containing dietary supplements. There are educational resources available for consumers and guidance for industry to support the quality assurance and safety of these products. These include the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the American Botanical Council, the American Herbal Products Association and USP.

Images of the recalled product from FDA’s website. Records involving fraud can be found in the Food Fraud Database.
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

No Olive Branch for Olive Oil Fraudsters

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

Police in Germany caught 24 suspects who made millions of Euros with fake olive oil, and impounded an impressive 150,000 liters of the fraudulent product. In a factory in Southern Italy, mediocre sunflower and soybean oil was altered with coloring and sold as extra virgin olive oil, mainly in Germany. The facility operated under unhygienic conditions. Watch the police video in the article for an original view of the operations.

Resources

Frankfurter Allgemeine (May 14, 2019). “150000 Liter falsches Olivenoel beschlagnahmt”. Retrieved from https://www.faz.net/aktuell/gesellschaft/kriminalitaet/150-000-liter-gepantschtes-olivenoel-beschlagnahmt-16187012.html?GEPC=s5

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Angus That’s Bogus

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

Good news: Crime does not pay off. In addition to several hundred thousand dollars in fines, a British butcher was jailed for mislabeling imported meat as high-end local British beef, such as Aberdeen Angus. He also falsely claimed local origin for imported pork and chicken, plus some of the meat was expired and re-labeled as fresh. This was done over a sustained period of time, even selling the wrongly labeled meats in his own butcher shop that brought in significant revenue.

Resource

Cardwell, M. and Beard, P. (April 26, 2019). “Crooked butcher made a fortune flogging cheap foreign meat as Aberdeen Angus”. Daily Record. Retrieved from https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/crooked-butcher-made-fortune-flogging-14687970

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

A Frank Discussion About Wurst

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

A scientific study of 100 “single species” sausage, such as beef, pork, chicken, turkey and others, was conducted in Canada. It found that 14% of sausages were mislabeled as single species but contained additional undeclared species. There is some encouraging news, however: While this is still an issue that requires monitoring, 14% mislabeling is a lower rate than detected in a previous study conducted a year ago. The samples were tested at the molecular level with DNA Barcoding and ddPCR (Droplet Digital Polymerase Chain Reaction) to detect the species via their DNA.

Resource

Shehata, H.R., et al. (Jan 15, 2019). “Re-visiting the occurrence of undeclared species in sausage products sold in Canada”. Science Direct. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0963996919300304

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Sour Cream Leaves a Sour Taste

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

Customers who purchase sour cream expect it to be a pure dairy product without additional non-dairy fats and oils. In Armenia’s capital city of Yerevan, Armenia’s State Food Safety Service discovered that five of 16 sour cream samples were altered with vegetable oil, which led to a thorough inspection of the five companies. Armenia’s “Law of Food Safety” clearly states that sour cream is counterfeit if it contains vegetable oil without proper labeling.

Resource

Arka News Agency (April 8, 2019). “Examination reveals vegetable oil in five brands of sour cream” Retrieved from
http://arka.am/en/news/business/examination_reveals_vegetable_oil_in_five_brands_of_sour_cream_/#.XKx2StqsyQs.twitter

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Let’s Get to the Meat

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis

Fresh beef adulterated with sulphur dioxide was found in a Hong Kong market by the Centre of Food Safety. The adulteration of fresh or chilled meat with sulphur dioxide carries hefty penalties of fines and even prison time. Sulphur dioxide is a widely used preservative and antioxidant for foods and beverages that include dried fruits, processed meat products such as sausages, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. The substance is harmless to healthy persons, however, in subjects with a sulphur dioxide allergy, breathing difficulties and asthma can be induced.

Resource

Centre for Food Safety (April 10, 2019). “Fresh beef sample found to contain sulphur dioxide” Centre for Food Safety, The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Accessed April 10, 2019. Retrieved from https://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/press/20190410_7408.html

Records involving fraud can be found in the Food Fraud Database.

Karen Everstine, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Food Fraud: Where Do I Start?

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

I attended the Safe Food California Conference last week in Monterey, California. Food fraud was not the main focus of the conference, but there was some good food fraud-related content. Craig Wilson gave a plenary session about the past, present and future of food safety at Costco. As part of that presentation, he discussed their supplier ingredient program. This program was implemented in response to the 2008 Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak in peanut paste but has direct applicability to food fraud prevention.

Food Fraud: Problem Solved? Learn more at the 2019 Food Safety Supply Chain Conference | May 29–30, 2019 | Attend in Rockville, MD or virtually Jeanette Litschewski from SQFI gave a breakout presentation on the most common SQF non-conformities in 2018. She presented data from 7,710 closed audits that cited 44,439 non-conformities. Of those, 756 were related to food fraud requirements. While this presentation was not focused on the specifics of the food fraud non-conformities, Jeanette did mention that many of them were related to broad issues such as not having completed a food fraud vulnerability assessment or appropriately documenting that each of the required factors was addressed in an assessment.

I was invited to give a breakout presentation with an overview of food fraud issues globally and a brief outline of some of the tools currently available to assist with conducting vulnerability assessments. Although many of the attendees had already began implementation of food fraud measures, there was a lot of interest in this list of tools and resources. Therefore, I am recreating the list in Table I. The focus is on resources that are either complimentary or affordable for small- and medium-sized businesses, with recognition that “full-service” and tailored consulting services are always an option.

Food Fraud Resources (Table I)
Food Fraud Mitigation Training Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessments Food Fraud Data/Records
Michigan State Massive Open Online Courses for Food Fraud SSAFE/PwC Decernis Food Fraud Database
Food Fraud Advisors Online Training Courses USP FFMG FPDI Food Adulteration Incidents Registry
Food Fraud Advisors Vulnerability Assessment Tools (downloadable spreadsheets):

The USP Food Fraud Mitigation Guidance referenced in Table I is a great source of general information on food fraud mitigation, as is the “Food Fraud Prevention” document created by Nestle. Many of the GFSI Certification Programme Owners have also released guidance documents about vulnerability assessments, such as BRC, FSSC 22000, and SQF.

The Decernis Food Fraud Database and the FPDI Food Adulteration Incidents Registry (see Table I) are two sources of historical food fraud data that are referenced specifically in the SSAFE/PwC tool. Companies can also track official information about food safety recalls and alerts (including related to food fraud) from public sources such as the FDA Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts; Import Refusals; Warning Letters; USDA Recalls and Public Health Alerts; EU RASFF, and many others.

Of course, there are quite a few companies that offer tailored tools, training and consulting services. Companies that offer courses in food fraud mitigation and assistance in creating a vulnerability assessment (or FDA-required food safety plan) include NSF, Eurofins, AIB International, SGS, and The Acheson Group.

Also available are services that compile food safety recalls and alerts (including those resulting from food fraud) from multiple official sources, such as FoodAKAI and HorizonScan. EMAlert is a proprietary tool that merges public information with user judgment to inform food fraud vulnerability. Horizon Scanning is a system that can monitor emerging issues, including food fraud, globally.

Food fraud mitigation, vulnerability assessment
Vulnerability assessments should help focus resources towards those ingredients truly at risk of fraudulent adulteration.

In short, there are many resources available to help support your food fraud vulnerability assessments and mitigation plans. If I have unintentionally missed mentioning any resources you have found to be helpful, please let us know in the comments.

Todd Fabec, Rfxcel
FST Soapbox

Why the Modern Food Supply Chain Needs Real-Time Environmental Monitoring

By Todd Fabec
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Todd Fabec, Rfxcel

Food supply chains are becoming more complex, as food companies are increasingly faced with blind spots such as deviations from required environmental conditions, theft, fraud and poor handling. Supply chains are global; transit routes that involve road, rail, sea and air create many potential points of failure in food safety or product integrity protocol that, until recently, were largely outside a company’s control.

Learn more about how to address risks in your supply chain at the Food Safety Supply Chain Conference | May 29–30, 2019 | Rockville, MD (or attend virtually)To maintain product quality and safety, companies should implement an environmental monitoring (EM) solution that paints a complete picture of their food products as they move through the supply chain. EM solutions that utilize devices powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) allow real-time tracking of cargo and provide actionable data that can mitigate common problems, change outcomes, and protect brands and consumer health.

Let’s take a deeper look into the problems that food manufacturers and distributors are facing how EM solutions can minimize or eliminate them altogether.

Current Hurdles for Food Supply Chains

As the global network of food trade expands, the diverse challenges facing suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and logistics companies present even more of a threat to supply chains and revenue.

According to PwC agribusiness advisory partner, Greg Quinn, worldwide food fraud results in losses of at least $65 billion a year. Luxury products such as Japanese Wagyu beef and Italian olive oil are regularly counterfeited and incorrectly labeled, and buyers often have no way to trace the origins of what they are purchasing.

Companies in the food and beverage industry also face diversion and theft, which can happen at any of the many blind spots along the supply chain. In fact, food and beverages were among the top commodities targeted by thieves in North America last year, accounting for 34% of all cargo theft, according to a report by BSI Supply Chain Services and Solutions.

Food product quality and safety are also seriously compromised when cargo is poorly handled while in transit, with hazards such as exposure to water, heat and cold, or substance contamination. These types of damages can be particularly acute in the cold chain, where perishable products must be moved quickly under specific environmental conditions, including temperature, humidity and light.

Furthermore, inefficiencies in routing—from not adhering to transport regulations to more basic oversights such as not monitoring traffic or not utilizing GPS location tracking—delay shipments, can result in product spoilage and/or shortened shelf life, and cost companies money. Routing and EM have become more important in light of FSMA, which FDA designed to better protect consumers by strengthening food safety systems for foodborne illnesses.

In short, businesses that manage food supply chains need to be on top of their game to guarantee product quality and safety and care for their brand.

How Does Product Tracking Technology Work?

Real-time EM solutions are proving to be an invaluable asset for companies seeking to combat supply chain challenges. Such product tracking capabilities give companies a vibrant and detailed picture of where their products are and what is happening to them. With EM in the supply chain, IoT technology is the crucial link to continuity, visibility and productivity.

So, how does integrated EM work? Sensors on pallets, cases or containers send data over communication networks at regular intervals. The data is made available via a software platform, where users can set parameters (e.g., minimum and maximum temperature) to alert the system of irregularities or generate reports for analysis. This data is associated with the traceability data and becomes part of a product’s pedigree, making it a powerful tool for supply chain visibility.

EM Combats Supply Chain Stumbling Blocks

EM allows companies to monitor their supply chain, protect consumers and realize considerable return on investment. The technology can show companies how to maximize route efficiencies, change shippers, or detect theft or diversion in real time. Tracking solutions transmit alerts, empowering manufacturers and suppliers to use data to halt shipments that may have been adulterated, redirect shipments to extend shelf life, and manage food recalls—or avoid them altogether. Recalls are a particularly important consideration: One 2012 study concluded that the average direct cost of a recall in the United States was $10 million.

The IoT-enabled technology provides real-time information about how long an item has been in transit, if the vehicle transporting it adhered to the approved route, and, if the shipment stopped, where and for how long. This is crucial information, especially for highly perishable goods. For example, leafy greens can be ruined if a truck’s engine and cooling system are turned off for hours at a border crossing. With EM and tracking, businesses are able to understand and act upon specific risks using detailed, unit-level data.

For example, a company can find out if pallets have dislodged, fallen, or have been compromised in other ways while in transit. They can receive alerts if the doors of a truck are opened at an unscheduled time or location, which could indicate theft. Thieves target food cargo more often than other products because it’s valuable, easy to sell and perishable, and evidence of the theft does not last very long. In fact, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that cargo theft costs U.S. businesses $30 billion each year, with food and beverage being one of the primary targets. Businesses need to get smart about preventative actions.

All of this actionable data is available in real time, allowing businesses to make decisions immediately, not after the fact when it’s too late. When necessary, they can divert or reroute shipments or take actions to remedy temperature excursions and other environmental concerns. This saves money and protects their reputation. Furthermore, third-party logistics firms and contracted delivery companies can be held accountable for incidents and inefficiencies.

Conclusion

As the benefits of global supply chains have grown, so have the risks. With the FSMA shifting responsibility for safety to food companies, real-time EM is a vital step to ensure cargo is maintained in the correct conditions, remains on track to its destination, and is safeguarded from theft and fraud. With the advent of IoT-enabled tracking and EM technologies, supply chain operations can be streamlined and companies can prevent waste and financial losses, protect their investments and brand identity, and gain an advantage in the marketplace.

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