Tag Archives: imports

FDA

FDA Begins Phase Two of Artificial Intelligence Imported Seafood Pilot Program

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

FDA is beginning phase two of its Artificial Intelligence Imported Seafood Pilot Program. The program, which is expected to run from February 1 through July 31, intends to improve FDA’s response in quickly and efficiently identifying potentially harmful imported seafood products.

Phase one of the pilot looked at using machine learning to find violative seafood shipments. “The pilot program will help the agency not only gain valuable experience with new powerful AI-enabled technology but also add to the tools used to determine compliance with regulatory requirements and speed up detection of public health threats,” FDA stated in a news release. “Following completion of the pilot, FDA will communicate on our findings to promote transparency and facilitate dialogue on how new and emerging technologies can be harnessed to solve complex public health challenges.”

The pilot program is part of the agency’s efforts that fall under the New Era of Smarter Food Safety.

Karen Everstine, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Food Authenticity: 2020 in Review

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

It is fair to say that 2020 was a challenging year with wide-ranging effects, including significant effects on our ongoing efforts to ensure food integrity and prevent fraud in the food system. COVID-19 caused major supply chain disruptions for foods and many other consumer products. It also highlighted challenges in effective tracking and standardization of food fraud-related data.

Let’s take a look at some of the notable food fraud occurrences in 2020:

  • Organic Products. The Spanish Guardia Civil investigated an organized crime group that sold pistachios with pesticide residues that were fraudulently labeled as organic, reportedly yielding €6 million in profit. USDA reported fraudulent organic certificates for products including winter squash, leafy greens, collagen peptides powder, blackberries, and avocados. Counterfeit wines with fraudulent DOG, PGI, and organic labels were discovered in Italy.
  • Herbs and Spices. Quite a few reports came out of India and Pakistan about adulteration and fraud in the local spice market. One of the most egregious involved the use of animal dung along with various other substances in the production of fraudulent chili powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, and garam masala spice mix. Greece issued a notification for a turmeric recall following the detection of lead, chromium, and mercury in a sample of the product. Belgium recalled chili pepper for containing an “unauthorized coloring agent.” Reports of research conducted at Queen’s University Belfast also indicated that 25% of sage samples purchased from e-commerce or independent channels in the U.K. were adulterated with other leafy material.
  • Dairy Products. India and Pakistan have also reported quite a few incidents of fraud in local markets involving dairy products. These have included reports of counterfeit ghee and fraudulent ghee manufactured with animal fats as well as milk adulterated with a variety of fraudulent substances. The Czech Republic issued a report about Edam cheese that contained vegetable fat instead of milk fat.
  • Honey. Greece issued multiple alerts for honey containing sugar syrups and, in one case, caramel colors. Turkey reported a surveillance test that identified foreign sugars in honeycomb.
  • Meat and Fish. This European report concluded that the vulnerability to fraud in animal production networks was particularly high during to the COVID-19 pandemic due to the “most widely spread effects in terms of production, logistics, and demand.” Thousands of pounds of seafood were destroyed in Cambodia because they contained a gelatin-like substance. Fraudulent USDA marks of inspection were discovered on chicken imported to the United States from China. Soy protein far exceeding levels that could be expected from cross contamination were identified in sausage in the Czech Republic. In Colombia, a supplier of food for school children was accused of selling donkey and horse meat as beef. Decades of fraud involving halal beef was recently reported in in Malaysia.
  • Alcoholic Beverages. To date, our system has captured more than 30 separate incidents of fraud involving wine or other alcoholic beverages in 2020. Many of these involved illegally produced products, some of which contained toxic substances such as methanol. There were also multiple reports of counterfeit wines and whisky. Wines were also adulterated with sugar, flavors, colors and water.

We have currently captured about 70% of the number of incidents for 2020 as compared to 2019, although there are always lags in reporting and data capture, so we expect that number to rise over the coming weeks. These numbers do not appear to bear out predictions about the higher risk of food fraud cited by many groups resulting from the effects of COVID-19. This is likely due in part to reduced surveillance and reporting due to the effects of COVID lockdowns on regulatory and auditing programs. However, as noted in a recent article, we should take seriously food fraud reports that occur against this “backdrop of reduced regulatory oversight during the COVID-19 pandemic.” If public reports are just the tip of the iceburg, 2020 numbers that are close to those reported in 2019 may indeed indicate that the iceburg is actually larger.

Unfortunately, tracking food fraud reports and inferring trends is a difficult task. There is currently no globally standardized system for collection and reporting information on food fraud occurrences, or even standardized definitions for food fraud and the ways in which it happens. Media reports of fraud are challenging to verify and there can be many media reports related to one individual incident, which complicates tracking (especially by automated systems). Reports from official sources are not without their own challenges. Government agencies have varying priorities for their surveillance and testing programs, and these priorities have a direct effect on the data that is reported. Therefore, increases in reports for a particular commodity do not necessarily indicate a trend, they may just reflect an ongoing regulatory priority a particular country. Official sources are also not standardized with respect to how they report food safety or fraud incidents. Two RASFF notifications in 2008 following the discovery of melamine adulteration in milk illustrate this point (see Figure 1). In the first notification for a “milk drink” product, the hazard category was listed as “adulteration/fraud.” However, in the second notification for “chocolate and strawberry flavor body pen sets,” the hazard category was listed as “industrial contaminants,” even though the analytical result was higher.1

RASFF

RASFF, melamine detection
Figure 1. RASFF notifications for the detection of melamine in two products.1

What does all of this mean for ensuring food authenticity into 2021? We need to continue efforts to align terminology, track food fraud risk data, and ensure transparency and evaluation of the data that is reported. Alignment and standardization of food fraud reporting would go a long way to improving our understanding of how much food fraud occurs and where. Renewed efforts by global authorities to strengthen food authenticity protections are important. Finally, consumers and industry must continue to demand and ensure authenticity in our food supply. While most food fraud may not have immediate health consequences for consumers, reduced controls can lead to systemic problems and have devastating effects.

Reference

  1. Everstine, K., Popping, B., and Gendel, S.M. (2021). Food fraud mitigation: strategic approaches and tools. In R.S. Hellberg, K. Everstine, & S. Sklare (Eds.) Food Fraud – A Global Threat With Public Health and Economic Consequences (pp. 23-44). Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-817242-1.00015-4
FDA

In a Year of ‘Unprecedented Challenges’ FDA’s Food Program Achieved So Much

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

Earlier this week FSMA celebrated its 10-year anniversary, and FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas reflected on the progress and accomplishments as a result of this legislation, and the path forward. As we round out the first week of 2021, Yiannas is looking back at the achievements of 2020 in the face of the historic COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m struck by how tirelessly our team members have worked together to help ensure the continuity of the food supply chain and to help keep food workers and consumers alike safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Yiannas on the FDA Voices blog. “Their commitment has not wavered in a time when we’re all dealing personally with the impact of the pandemic on our families, schooling our children from home and taking care of elderly parents.”

  • Response to COVID-19. FDA addressed the concern of virus transmission, assuring consumers that COVID-19 cannot be transmitted via food or its packaging. The agency also worked with CDC and OSHA on resources to help promote worker safety and supply chain continuity.
  • Release of the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint
  • Release of the 2020 Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan with a focus on prevention, response and research gaps
  • Artificial Intelligence pilot program to strengthen the screening of imported foods
  • Proposed Food Traceability Rule issued in an effort to create more recordkeeping requirements for specific foods
  • New protocol for developing and registering antimicrobial treatments for pre-harvest agricultural water
  • Enhanced foodborne outbreak investigation processes and established the outbreak investigation table (via the CORE Network) to disseminate information about an outbreak right when the agency begins its investigation
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

A Sticky Criminal Endeavor

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

Honey harvest in Europe is predicted to be down by 40% in 2020. This disastrous harvest is caused by a combination of issues, including flood, draught and climate change in a variety of regions. One third of honey into the EU is imported, and cheap, sometimes fake imports are undercutting EU producers’ prices. The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre states that at least 14% of honeys in the EU are adulterated. Two recent incidents of honey adulteration in Greece show that this is a serious problem and possibly an indication of more fraudulent activity to come.

Resources

  1. Askew, K. (November 9, 2020). “Honey producers stung by ‘worst harvest in decades’ call for crackdown on adulterated imports”. Food Navigator.
  2. Hellenic Food Authority. “Two cases of honey fraud in Greece.”
FDA

FDA Starts Voluntary Pilot Program to Assess Third-Party Food Safety Audit Standards Against FSMA

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

On Friday FDA announced a voluntary pilot program to help the agency and industry better understand whether private third-party food safety audit standards align with the requirements in FSMA’s Preventive Controls for Human Food and Produce Safety Rules. The program, which will be conducted over one year, is part of the goals established under the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint, which states that FDA is exploring the reliability of third-party audits in ensuring food safety.

“The FDA understands that determinations that third-party audit standards align with the FSMA regulations could provide importers and receiving facilities with confidence that the standards used to audit their suppliers adequately consider FDA’s food safety requirements,” the agency stated in a constituent email update. “In addition, alignment determinations could help the FDA’s investigators more efficiently determine whether importers and receiving facilities are in compliance with the FSMA supplier verification requirements.”

During the pilot, FDA will assess up to five third-party food safety standards for alignment with the above-mentioned FSMA rules—including what resources are needed to review and assess those standards, and whether the pilot participants can provide adequate information allow FDA to determine alignment. “Alignment determinations would give those relying on audits conducted to those standards confidence that they are meeting certain FDA requirements for supplier verification audits,” FDA stated. “In addition, the pilot will enable FDA to gain information and experience that will allow the Agency to evaluate the resources and tools required to conduct alignment reviews.”

FDA is requesting those who want to participate in the program, both the public as well as owners of third-party food safety standards, submit requests in the Federal Register within 30 days.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Don’t Primp My Shrimp

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

Authorities in Cambodia found a jelly-like substance injected into 11 tons of shrimp and other seafood imported possibly from Vietnam. Not only were the shrimp unfit for human consumption, import paperwork and permits were missing as well. The seafood was confiscated and destroyed at a landfill.

Resource

  1. Sotheary, P. (June 1, 2020). “11 tonnes of tainted seafood destroyed”. Khmer Times.
    Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database.
Coronavirus, COVID-19

China Stops Poultry Imports From Tyson Foods Due to COVID-19 Concerns, Clamping Down on Inspections

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Coronavirus, COVID-19

On Sunday China’s General Administration of Customs announced that it would be suspending imported shipments of poultry from a Tyson Foods plant based in Springdale, Arkansas. The suspension is reportedly due to an outbreak of coronavirus cases at the facility.

On Friday Tyson Foods announced the results of COVID-19 testing conducted at its facilities in northwestern Arkansas (Benton and Washington counties): 3,748 employees were tested; 481 tested positive, and 95% were asymptomatic.

“The results across our Northwest Arkansas facilities, and the country more broadly, reflect how much is still unknown about this virus, which is why Tyson is committed to providing information to our local health officials and enhanced education to our team members,” said Tom Brower, senior vice president of health and safety for Tyson Foods stated in a company press release. “Through our inclusive approach to large-scale testing, we are finding that a very high level of team members who test positive do not show symptoms. Identifying asymptomatic cases helps the community, since other testing is often limited to people who feel unwell.”

Meanwhile, it has also been reported that officials in China want the inspection process of overseas shipments ramped up, as they suspect that COVID-19 could be present on imported frozen food products.

Over the weekend PepsiCo’s Beijing operations were suspended following confirmed coronavirus cases at its chips production facility.

Last week new cases of the coronavirus were reported in Beijing, leading to concerns of a resurgence of the virus. Some new cases have been linked to the Xinfadi Market, a wholesale food market.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

No Celebration During These Days Of The Dead

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

One of the worst suspected alcoholic beverage poisoning incidents has claimed dozens of lives in Mexico. A possible cause may be tainted liquor from illegal bootleg sources; the suspicion is pointing to methanol as a contaminant, which can lead to blindness and even death. Due to the coronavirus crisis, some Mexican states banned alcohol production and sales, which may have promoted the sales of illicit alcoholic beverages. An Euromonitor report mentions that about 25% of alcohol beverages in developing markets are illicit and may endanger consumers’ health and lives.

Resource

Taylor, P. (May 14, 2020). “Another illicit alcohol tragedy as dozens killed in Mexico”. Securing Industry.

Kevin Kenny, Decernis
FST Soapbox

COVID-19 Supply Chain Disruptions on the Horizon

By Kevin Kenny
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Kevin Kenny, Decernis

On the one level, it’s still too early to see full supply chain stoppages, other than growing port and customs delays. While one does not need a crystal ball to see that significant issues are already on the horizon, it takes time for both positive and negative supply impacts to wend their way through the chain.

My company, Decernis, a FoodChain ID Company, provides a complete regulatory intelligence software suite that covers more than 100,000 global regulations in 219 countries, and as such, we have a unique global perspective on how the pandemic is going to affect the supply chain.

Among the countries to watch is India, which imposed a nationwide 21-day shutdown on March 25 and thus far is the tightest lockdown in the world. In the large cities, the lack of public transportation has forced newly unemployed to walk home, often over a period of days, to their home villages. This creates a challenge for the economy because India depends on seasonal migrant and factory workers.

Unlike most countries, pharmaceutical and supplement manufacturers, as well as food processors, are entirely shut down. While farm operations and their supply chains are exempt, there is no harvest without migrant labor. Moreover, truckers transporting frozen goods often are stopped en route due to uneven permit enforcement across states. Add to this the problem of export foods stuck in containers or ports with limited market access, combined with import/export restrictions, and a crisis is at hand.

And, while the Indian government has not banned rice exports, India’s Rice Exporters Association effectively suspended exports because of dramatic labor shortages and logistical disruptions. So, while buyers exist, there is no practical way to harvest, process or ship those exports.

Combine the lack of migrant agricultural workers with the closing of restaurants and schools in many countries and economies are left with a steep drop in demand. As a result, unprocessed food including pork, eggs, milk and early-harvest fruits and vegetables are being destroyed or “tilled under.”

Countries whose leadership is turning a blind eye to the pandemic (i.e., Brazil) will ultimately see a more significant impact.

Another major player to watch is China, where the tariff crisis initially exposed supply chain vulnerabilities. Combined with the current pandemic, businesses now see that sourcing can often be a more substantial factor than price.

Prior to COVID-19, the United States, among other countries, initiated a trend toward blatant economic nationalism, which significantly accelerated this year. In an effort to protect their populations and national security, countries (i.e., Cambodia, India, Kazakhstan, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine) halted the export of vital commodities. As a result, critical supplies have been diverted to more developed countries that can outbid and pay a higher price, leading to food security risks in smaller and weaker markets.

These factors will trigger a rethinking of supply chains in the medium and long term. The cost savings realized in China, India, Vietnam and Thailand will be weighed against the threats to supply chain stability. The result may be a subtle new form of supply chain nationalism, where companies prefer more reliable local production to lower-cost, more vulnerable foreign production. The recent sourcing trend for large multinationals to partner with fewer, trusted providers could reverse once the dust settles from this pandemic.

The decrease in air cargo capacity (due to the grounding of passenger aircrafts) has also played a significant role in supply chain disruption and will lead to dramatic short-term increases in the cost of air freight.

Last, but certainly not least, will be the fallout from obvious bankruptcies. As an early indicator, 247,000 Chinese companies declared bankruptcy in the first two months of 2020, with many more closures expected.

Obvious candidates include movie theaters, airlines, cruise ships, retailers, and hotels, but any company caught carrying a large debt load is also endangered. Pharma companies and those in oil, gas and petrochemicals will also be affected by a perfect storm of oil market collapse.

On a positive note, any supplement (i.e., Vitamin B, C and D) food commodity (i.e., blueberries, oranges) and processed food products (i.e., juices, yogurts) perceived to have immunity-boosting potential will likely see a short and long-term boost in sales. Botanicals, however, may soon have significant new sourcing problems.

As they deal with consequences of this pandemic, global companies will need to strategize for building a more durable and flexible supply chain. These unprecedented times are sure to spark more innovation and technological growth to address the challenges industry is facing.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Another Seafood Fraud: The Cephalopod Edition

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

For more than three years, more than 100,000 pounds of giant squid from Peru was imported into the United States by a father-son duo who owned two Long Island food processing and distribution companies, and then marketed the squid as the more expensive octopus. The mislabeled seafood was worth over $1 million, and 10 grocery stores were defrauded during this time period. This kind of fraud carries steep fines and a possible five-year prison sentence.

Resource

  1. The United States Department of Justice (November 25, 2019). “New York Food Processing and Distribution Companies and Owners Plead Guilty to Seafood Sales Fraud”. Retrieved from Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, Press Release Number 19-1307.