Transparency. It’s been top of mind for years. But because of the shift in public’s interest in healthy ingredients and where they come from, businesses are responding by making transparency part of their strategic business initiatives. This includes providing a complete list of ingredients, known allergens and their nutritional information. They also want to know where and how products are sourced and handled. If this information isn’t available, it creates an air of distrust with today’s savvy consumers.
This information is becoming increasingly mandatory, not just because of FSMA and other regulations but because customers are demanding it. With globalization and increased imports from foreign suppliers, regulations as well as consumer expectations for food quality and safety has dramatically risen in the past few years. It is now one of the most critical ways you can earn consumer trust and loyalty. Here are three ways to incorporate transparency into your business plan.
1. Supplier Engagement Makes Good Business Sense
To offer transparency to customers, you must engage with your suppliers. You can’t offer your consumers the transparency they are demanding if you are not getting the information from your suppliers. Plus, it is critical to know who your suppliers’ suppliers are to mitigate risk.
Leveraging a supplier management technology solution will save you time by automating processes such as supplier onboarding and will help you keep track of documents, certificates and audits that you require.
It also helps support supplier communications so you can establish an open dialogue, which is critical when problems arise. You can’t expect a supplier to fulfill your requirements around safety and brand promise if you aren’t open about your expectations. It’s a two-way relationship that can make a huge difference in your business.
2. Label Transparency
FoodLogiQ recently published a survey that revealed supply chain transparency by food companies is a critical driver in consumer purchasing decisions and brand loyalty. Fifty-four percent of respondents want as much information as possible on the label, and nearly 40% want country of origin, allergen alerts and GMOs all identified on the label.
In this survey, those who identify as “caring deeply about the quality of food they eat,” are overwhelmingly in favor of more transparent labeling, with 86% of that demographic expecting country of origin, allergen alerts and genetically modified ingredients to be noted, and they ask that “as much information as possible” be included on the label (or menu) itself.
If a brand doesn’t provide this information, consumers will look elsewhere for it. This puts companies in a vulnerable position.
3. Building a Transparent Culture and Backing Marketing Claims
Food safety professionals and the marketing department are now working together to communicate their transparent farm-to-fork story. This cross-departmental collaboration will not only meet business goals but the teamwork strengthens the overall business.
To maintain a positive reputation, it starts with being open and honest, and engaging your customers in an authentic way. And once a brand establishes itself as being transparent, consumers are more open to trying other products from that company. Building a culture of transparency that is focused on safety and quality can be an incredible marketing advantage and give food companies an edge over competitors.
A recall, stock withdrawal or a report of a foodborne illness can wreak havoc on a business. But the worst thing you can do is hide it. If a brand has ever been under fire for false information, low-quality ingredients or a major recall, consumers know. They are more informed about your products through their online research and social media. It is better for consumers to receive this information directly from the brand than through a third-party site.
If a company is faced with a recall, it is important to involve multiple business units that each have a stake in resolving the issues as quickly as possible. Include the marketing department in your food safety plan and preventative controls so if you are faced with a recall, you have a communication plan in place.
How to Meet Transparency Business Goals
For food companies to provide this transparency, protect their brand image and earn their customers’ trust, they need full end-to-end supply chain traceability technology to modernize their processes and access real-time data. Centralizing your data creates a single source of truth to make data-informed decisions and remain compliant, all while empowering consumers to make safer, more informed decisions about the food they eat.
The good news is that food companies making transparency a priority are being rewarded by customer loyalty, as consumers are willing to pay more for those products. The previously mentioned survey revealed that 88% of respondents—from all demographics, Millennials to Boomers—were willing to pay more for healthier foods including those that are GMO-free, have no artificial coloring/flavors and are deemed all natural.
Transparency transcends all categories: From restaurant menus to labels on consumer package goods. So no matter what business you are in, implement these strategies to systematically impact on your bottom line and keep your food chain safe.
Accurate labeling of gluten-free products is a big deal for consumers who have celiac disease, as they can suffer potentially serious health issues when they eat gluten. FDA set standards for the labeling of gluten-free products in August 2013 (with a compliance date of August 5, 2014) and recently announced results of a sampling assignment that was conducted to assess compliance with the final rule.
Of the 702 samples taken from 250 products labeled as “gluten-free”, FDA found that more than 99.5% of the samples to be in compliance with the agency’s requirement.
“Of the total number tested, five samples from one product source contained gluten in excess of the regulatory limit of 20 parts per million (ppm), for a product-based rate of compliance with that requirement greater than 99.5 percent. A voluntary recall was conducted to address concerns related to the violative samples. In addition to carrying out the recall, the manufacturer conducted an extensive root cause analysis and immediately implemented additional corrective actions to prevent recurrence.” – FDA
Recently the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced an initiative to reduce the amount of confusion that consumers experience regarding the “sell by”, “use by” and other date-specific labeling on food packaging. It is also part of an effort to reduce food waste.
The new initiative is completely voluntary, but GMA and FMI are hoping that retailers and manufacturers adopt the standard by the summer of 2018. It streamlines the labeling terminology to two simple phrases:
“BEST If Used By”. Describes product quality, indicating the date by which the product may not taste or perform as expected but it is still safe to consume
“USE By”. Applies to highly perishable products and/or products that have a food safety concern over a period of time that warrants a date by which the products should either be consumed or discarded
A variety of factors well beyond “sell by”/”use by” dates contribute to consumer confusion. The following Q&A is a brief discussion with Dagan Xavier, co-founder and vice president, customer intelligence at Label Insight on the impact of incorrectly labeling products (erosion of brand trust) and the challenge food companies face in providing transparent information on their products.
Food Safety Tech:How is the demand for transparency both from consumers and regulators changing the food product labeling landscape?
Dagan Xavier: Transparency sounds easy, but in reality, it is complex. For companies, managing compliance and consumer demands is not cut and dry.
Thankfully, brands and consumers are usually on the same page. But there are times when it’s not the case—and that causes trust issues. For one, brands need to use specific, compliant wording. That wording can sometimes be more complex than a preferred consumer-friendly phrasing. For example, USDA’s proposed labeling of GM-containing products refers to them as “genetically engineered.” Except, consumers are far more familiar with the term “genetically modified.”
Regardless of these nuances, regulations around transparency are in place to help consumers. The regulations set clear definitions about what products or ingredients can or cannot qualify for a labeling claim.
We currently live at a time where there is a general distrust of the food industry from consumers. Having strict regulations in place that add factual meaning behind claims is incredibly important. Meaningful and understandable claims, logos, and certifications are slowly beginning to help build trust back up from consumers.
FST: What challenges are food companies facing in labeling their products?
Xavier: One of the biggest hurdles companies face in labeling is fitting as much information as possible on the package. Between mandatory components (like allergens, nutrients, ingredients) and desired content (marketing copy and images), something almost always gets left off. What gets left off? It tends to be sourcing facts, “Made in America” logos, and other data that consumers find valuable but rank lower on a brand’s priority list.
In reality, 100% complete product information is nearly impossible to fit within the confined space of most product packaging.
The good news is that according to a recent study by Label Insight, most consumers (88%) say they would be interested in accessing a complete set of product information digitally.
SmartLabel (an initiative by the Grocery Manufacturers Association) is an easy solution. SmartLabels save companies space on their packaging, while still allowing them to communicate all product information with consumers digitally.
Most consumers (79%) say they are very likely or somewhat likely to use SmartLabel technology if it was offered by a brand. 44% say they would trust a brand more if it participated in the GMA SmartLabel initiative.
FST: Related to labeling, what are the complicating factors when a company is producing organic, GMO-free, gluten free, etc.—especially when working with suppliers?
Xavier: Having a trusting relationship and open communication with suppliers is key.
Because regulations around organic and gluten-free are so stringent here in the United States, brands need to rely on their suppliers to have ongoing robust certification audits, inspections, documentation and renewal programs.
We expect regulations around GMO-containing products to follow suit.
For companies with dozens of suppliers, it can get tricky managing the documentation of certifications. This is especially complicated if suppliers are overseas and their audits are not delivered through the same certifying agencies that retailers or importers would like.
Adding logos and certifications to packages can be expensive and add risk to brands if a supplier falls out of compliance. In the end, it is important for both brands and suppliers to have robust documentation and a good communication channel. This ensures that all information on-pack is always the most accurate information for consumers and retailers.
Consumer preference for organic and “all natural” foods remains on the rise, according to market trend research and retailer sales.1,2 The Organic Trade Association (OTA) recorded $40 billion in U.S. organic food sales for 2015, stating that sales have nearly doubled since 2008.3 Pair this with $21 billion in sales for Q1 2016 for non-GMO labeled foods and $1.6 billion in 2015 gluten-free sales and, it is hard to ignore this thriving market sector, which seeks to support consumers in their quest for fresh, healthy and transparently-labeled foods.4,5
As a result of these trends, the industry is experiencing a surge in natural food and beverage start-up companies as well as the acquisition of organic and natural product companies by manufacturing giants such as Campbell Soup Co., Danone and General Mills, Inc. But in complex—and especially global—supply chains, achieving transparency comes with hurdles for verifying product claims such as “all-natural”, non-GMO, antibiotic-free, and other nutrient content or functional claims.
Organic and other natural food manufacturers are under increasing regulatory and consumer scrutiny for tracing claims back to the source for all ingredients. Failing to verify the authenticity or identity preservation (IP) status of materials, maintain chain of custody and ensure the accuracy of labels can have devastating consequences for a manufacturer, including regulatory action and consumer fraud class action law suits.6 It’s not just consumers demanding the “right to know” where food comes from, but manufacturers must also push this sentiment back through their supply chain to drive transparency for ensuring safety, brand protection and verifying product claims.
With the goal of meeting consumer demands for healthy food products, improved transparency in food production and clean labels, how can organic, non-GMO and natural food manufacturers stay ahead of the curve when it comes to ensuring that product claims provide the value consumers seek?
Consider the following tasks for achieving transparency in organic and natural product claims.
Analyze Your Ingredients for Risk
Get to know the pitfalls, which can affect the integrity of product claims. Many of these stem from cross contamination, authenticity or mislabeling issues for sourced materials. To prevent these pitfalls, analyze each ingredient for supply chain risks. Identifying potential risks, which may affect the integrity of claims creating liability for misbranding, is a critical step in achieving transparency.
For example, is there a potential for cross contamination from a non-organic source? This is a common risk where a supplier engages in the co-production of organic and non-organic materials. A lack of segregation and clear product identification during transportation, storage and processing activities can lead to commingling or cross-contamination, which affects material integrity and thus, any downstream product claims. Ensuring suppliers and the manufacturer have clear measures in place for segregation is an important consideration when determining risk.
Or, consider adulteration from a non-authentic material, which can affect the integrity of the claim. Identifying vulnerabilities within the supply chain is necessary to reduce opportunities for perpetrating food fraud. Materials such as organic products and some natural ingredients are at greater risk for fraud where limited availability is an issue and/or the material is a high-value commodity or product. Mislabeling, counterfeit production or economically motivated adulteration, such as the substitution or dilution of ingredients in a sourced material, has a significant impact on downstream product claims.
Unverified packaging and labels are other sources of risk with the potential to affect the integrity of product claims. Ensure your supplier’s labeling practices include controls to verify the correct packaging and labels when producing IP materials or other ingredients with nutrient content or functional claims.
With a clear understanding of material risks, what attributes of an ingredient should be prioritized, tested and/or verified when considering the integrity of finished product claims?
Once material risks are analyzed, establish clear specifications for raw materials, which are agreed upon between the supplier and manufacturer. This serves as the basis for verifying material claims and subsequently, downstream product claims. Where specifications are in place, material verification may be performed through a variety methods including: testing, mass balance, COA review and audits. Verifying materials against agreed upon specifications not only supports due diligence in product claims but also brings manufacturers closer to their suppliers, steering us towards the next task.
Get to Know Your Suppliers
At the heart of food production transparency is the relationship a manufacturer has with its suppliers. Even the simplest of manufactured foods have a handful of ingredients, which are typically sourced through a global supply chain network. Due to the seasonality of produce or supply chain risks such as market fluctuations, business disruptions, natural disasters, or transportation failures; manufacturers can’t rely on a single supplier for the sourcing of a particular ingredient.
This leads to reliance on multiple suppliers, which may be geographically dispersed. Sourcing from multiple suppliers—especially when this occurs for multiple ingredients across multiple products—can create hurdles to relationship building for enhanced transparency due to time and resource constraints for acquiring first-hand knowledge of a supplier’s operation. Thus, proactive supply chain management, which enables a manufacturer to learn about the supplier’s history and operation, is essential for transparency.
This can be accomplished by establishing supplier approval criteria to provide a baseline for getting to know your supplier and establish minimum criteria for sourcing. Building upon this, is the use of approved suppliers to solidify the relationship and develop out a stable supply chain network. And finally, it is best practice to visit the supplier’s site to learn more about operational practices and the people responsible for ensuring material specifications and identity status are consistently achieved.
Apply Supply Chain Management Best Practices
Effective management of suppliers to prevent or reduce risks, which can lead to mislabeling and false claims, relies on the risk assessment conducted for materials and suppliers, applied controls (e.g., segregation) and verification that the supplier’s controls consistently ensure material integrity.
GFSI benchmarked schemes paved the way for enhanced supply chain management and risk mitigation when it comes to sourcing materials to ensure food safety and legal status. Some schemes additionally require controls and verification activities such as the validation of health claims or verification of nutrient content to provide a framework for helping manufacturers develop a system, which ensures product integrity. For food sold in the United States, a GFSI-based system is now reinforced by the FSMA Preventive Controls rule, which requires supply chain-applied controls to mitigate material risks along with additional controls to ensure that food is not adulterated or misbranded under the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act.
It is important to note that while the FSMA Preventive Controls rule regulates most processors and manufacturers, organic raw agricultural commodities (RAC’s), dietary supplements and unprocessed meats are not covered by the rule as they are covered by other U.S. food regulations. Since these products may be included in organic and natural product formulations, manufacturers may want to consider applying a Preventive Controls methodology to their supply chain or pursue certification to a recognized food safety standard such as a GFSI benchmarked scheme where this is not already in place.
Simplify Your Supply Chain
Complex supply chains reduce visibility, add latency into monitoring, and increase opportunities for contamination or fraud.7,8
Simplifying your supply chain can take a variety of forms such as the sourcing of local or domestic materials.
Continue reading the article by clicking on page 2 below.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry has come to an agreement on the first-of-its-kind nationwide mandatory labeling of food products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Although the deal requires labeling on far more products than those required under the Vermont GMO labeling law (which goes into effect July 1), the way in which disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients is revealed on food products is not as straightforward as it seems. Under the bill, disclosure methods of GMOs on labeling includes on the actual packaging; an electronic/digital link that a consumer can scan with a smartphone to retrieve more information online; or a phone number in which a consumer can call to get more information. Thus, companies are not required to include all of the information on the product label.
The Center for Food Safety estimates that 75% of processed foods contain genetically engineered ingredients.The Senate Agriculture Committee praises the bill as a “win for consumers”, but there are industry folks who disagree. “While we are pleased this proposal will finally create a national, mandatory GMO disclosure system, protects organic labels, and will cover more food than Vermont’s groundbreaking GMO labeling law, we are disappointed that the proposal will require many consumers to rely on smart-phones to learn basic information about their food.,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Stonyfield Farm and advocacy group Just Label It in a release.
Following a “thorough and rigorous” scientific review process, Health Canada announced the approval of GMO salmon, also known as AquAdvantage Salmon, last week. The salmon is developed by Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. According to a release from Health Canada, the AquAdvantage Salmon underwent safety and nutrition assessments by both Health Canada for use as food and by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for use as livestock feed. The assessments found the salmon to be “as safe and nutritious as” traditional salmon.
“This approval also comes despite the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans draft risk assessment that questions the health and welfare of AquaBounty Technologies Inc.’s genetically modified salmon. The draft risk assessment concluded that AquaBounty’s GMO salmon are not only ‘more susceptible to Aeromonas salmonicida, a type of disease-causing bacteria,’ but exhibit ‘diminished growth rates’ and ‘widely varied performance.’” –Friends of the Earth news release
More than 60 grocery store chains have committed to keeping GMO salmon off their shelves, including Trader Joe’s, Costco, Whole Foods, Aldi, Target and Safeway.
In America’s food supply chain, food is sourced globally. Since ingredients often come from multiple countries, inspection and quality control is challenging, as regulations, policies and processes differ in each country. Product management begins with the suppliers, from the fields where the foods are grown, to the pesticides and fertilizers used, to harvesting, washing, shipping, storing, and processing (manufacturers), and finally, to packaging and delivery to consumers.
Figure 1 shows each step of the product management process can introduce contamination due to unsafe practices or other risks. As such, test data and traceability must begin in the field and end when the final product is delivered to the consumer. The Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) captures all information to ensure that quality data is effectively managed, communicated, and easily and quickly accessible in the event of a contamination issue. The LIMS allows producers to provide authorities with the required sampling and testing documentation to prove compliance.
U.S. consumers expect their food products to be affordable, consistent, safe and unadulterated. Consumers have seen numerous food recalls in the news, and it has shaken their confidence. The CDC estimates that about one in six Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and approximately 3,000 die of foodborne diseases each year. Global food directives for international food initiatives include CODEX, ISO (International Standards Organization), and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).
The U.S. Government has implemented various food safety programs, from Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) to FSMA in order to identify and correct potential contamination in the food supply. In fact, one of the primary focuses of FSMA is preventive action based on risk assessment.
The food landscape has changed significantly, especially over the past decade, as consumers demand year-round fresh fruits, vegetables and juices, along with more exotic foods. The fact that U.S. food is globally sourced has resulted in numerous challenges in quality assurance, shipping, traceability, labeling, storage, blending, testing, and reporting.
For example, upon reading the labeling on an apple juice can, it is not uncommon to learn the juice has been possibly sourced from numerous countries including the United States, China, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and many other countries from the European Union. Oftentimes, labels state that ingredients may come from some of the countries listed, but it does not specify what percentage comes from each country or exactly from which country the product was sourced. Figure 2 shows how LIMS can track and manage this information in a relational SQL Server LIMS database.
A similar scenario is true for tracking hamburger meat: The meat that was used to make burgers can come from multiple ranches and hundreds of cows. Many consumers don’t understand why their food/beverage is blended in large ton batches, and producers want to reach the required final product specifications, while offering a consistent product and experience to the consumer. Blending has become commonplace in the food industry, and it makes traceability much more challenging. The same is true in blending different meats, for example regulators have found pork in products marked 100% beef, this has led to the use of molecular tests to determine if meat has been adulterated.
FSMA and Traceability
FSMA focuses on a preventive approach rather than reaction and response to foodborne outbreaks. A central focus is on traceability, involving a complete understanding of the complex food chain and conducting testing at the key control points that can introduce contamination. It is important to understand the source of all the raw ingredients that make up a final product as well as the details of where they are sourced, the CoA (Certificate of Analysis) report, other test results, and all associated documentation. These elements are especially important, because each region of the world has different approved testing methods and is challenged with different potential contaminants and processes. As a result, food manufacturers must manage a significant amount of information on all raw materials that they receive, along with the associated paperwork, which includes the CoA, confirmatory test data, and all plant, production and final product test data.
Case example. As operations scale, so does the testing. In order to manage all the testing, most laboratories turn to LIMS and laboratory automation to manage high throughput screening. A client that was performing nearly 1,000 Listeria tests per day was using an automated microbiological screening platform to complete this testing. They were struggling to hire more resources to manage and run the instrument, as the time was short and the increased sample volume was imminent. The goal was to automate testing from the nine plants that were submitting samples to the main laboratory, such that the entire process could be automated from the laboratory knowing how many samples were coming from each plant and from deploying pre-configured worklists to upload to the instruments. The instruments would then run the samples and send the result back into the LIMS. This integration alone saved more than six hours per day. In addition, the electronic data transfer was fast and error-free, and since the data was imported into the LIMS, any positives were automatically flagged in real time. This approach allows immediate action.
In addition, all data from shelf life studies and additional testing on the food product (i.e., pesticide testing, environmental testing for Listeria sp., mold, yeast, etc., formulations, and blending) can be managed in the LIMS, one centralized database.
How LIMS Supports FSMA
Over the years some manufacturers have relied on less-robust tools to manage and maintain testing data, from multiple Excel spreadsheets to paper log books. Challenges with using these tools include data corruptions, data loss, typographical errors, and accidental or malicious data changes. These systems are often costly, especially from a resource standpoint (i.e., data errors, hours spent interacting with the data for calculations, tracking samples, and manual report creation alone). In addition, creating reports for regulating authorities can be time-consuming and because there is no control over changes to the Excel sheets or logbooks, there is typically no audit trail, and because the data is not in the database, querying the data can be very difficult.
A quality LIMS will ensure that the organization is bullet-proof when it comes time for regulatory audits. It also provides a complete and secure solution to manage, track and monitor batches of product from farm to table. LIMS not only helps clients manage their regulatory compliance goals, but it also facilitates communication across the organization and provides laboratory intelligence that gives buyers insight into the best suppliers to purchase from, based on final product specification, consistency and pricing. Managers can also better understand when it is time to outsource testing based on workload data, allowing them to maximize their resources and profitably through more efficient operations. The system also accelerates communication: As soon as testing is completed, reports can be automatically emailed and alerts sent to cell phones, if any issues arise.
When dealing with perishable products, time is of the essence, LIMS save time. Table 1 lists just a few of major benefits of the LIMS in FSMA regulatory compliance.
Sample tracking and management
Integrated barcode support (both 1D and 2D), manage all batch data, tests, from raw materials, in process testing to final packaged product testing
21 CFR Part 11
Compliance with electronic signature requirements
Easily, automatically generate the CoA report once testing is completed, validated and approved
Manage final product, supplier and customer specifications and pricing
Link all paperwork to Work Order for ready access and retrieval
Full Chain of Custody
Automatically generated and linked to the order
Records data and all paperwork associated with product
All paperwork that arrived with the raw ingredients, CoA, and shipping documentation or additional test data
Records all test results
Automatic data import from instruments as well as hand entered data
Setup, manage and track all aspects of shelf life studies
Formulations and Blending
Manage and track as components and specifications for final product blends, and leverage predictive tools for optimal purchase options from suppliers
Track actions in the system and generate a report of all audits made to any result data
CAPAs (Corrective and Preventative Actions)
Track and manage open CAPAs in the LIMS, and tie to testing results for easy management to increase customer satisfaction
Traceability back to the source (farm, country) and forward to the store that it was shipped to, with key data (lot number, ship date, etc.)
Users can view all components and associated test results, along with any notes on the final product, back to the supplier and forward to locations that offer the product to the consumer
Manage employee training records and view Standard Operating Procedures online to ensure access to work instruction and provide evidence for audits
Manage all quality control data on the instruments used in the testing, as well as documented calibration data, maintenance, any repairs, or any issues. Users can link the PDF manual in the LIMS
Enterprise integration (ERP, SAP, SCADA, MES, SAS JMP)
Data sharing allows users with permissions access to data when they need it, so that they can quickly view and monitor information they need to perform their job. Users can also view data with integrated statistical tools to view trends that may not be readily evident
A LIMS is a critical tool to the success of food companies. It organizes and securely manages all aspects of food testing, facilitates regulatory compliance, enhances communication within the organization, and maximizes productivity. Many food producers are concerned about protecting their brand and providing a high quality, consistent, and safe product to consumers while operating efficiently and at a profit. An LIMS allows them to meet these goals.
Upon conducting some online research to find a nice bottle of wine to bring to a party, I became distracted by a story about the world’s most expensive wine, priced at an eye-watering $195,000. With just a few clicks, I uncovered stories about auctioning a single bottle of wine for more than $300,000, and a case of 114 bottles selling for a record $1.6 million. Some of the reasons for the huge sums invested in pricey wines include rarity, social status of owner (aka famous), vintage, and perhaps most importantly, region and vineyard.
Ever the analytical chemist, I wondered, how do buyers identify whether that the extravagant bottle of wine they’re purchasing is the real thing? Perhaps the serious wine collectors out there could benefit from having an isotope ratio mass spectrometer (IRMS) in their cellar! But seriously, could IRMS play a role in authenticity testing?
Testing for Authenticity and Geographic Origin of Wine
Increasingly, fraud surrounding the provenance of wine has become a problem. Last year, a man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for selling millions of dollars of counterfeit wine. He not only created fake labels, but he also mixed and blended lower-priced wines to imitate the taste and character of rare and much more expensive wines.
An article published last year about the authenticity and geographic origin of wine discusses the results of investigating the stable isotope composition (C and O) of wine samples.1 The authors claim to have found significant isotope variations within samples from the same country as well as between samples from different countries.
¹³C and Simultaneous ¹⁸O and ²H Isotope Analysis in Ethanol with Thermo Scientific DELTA V Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometers is also a useful resource, as it defines the configuration required for such testing. The method demonstrates excellent results and could be quite suitable for origin testing of wine. Isotopic analysis of wine has become a widespread tool to evaluate the quality, authenticity and origin of labeled products. This application note shows the ability and performance of the analysis of ethanol with combustion and with a high temperature carbon reduction technique in combination with a DELTA V IRMS. With this configuration, the ethanol can be analyzed for oxygen and carbon isotope composition. The analysis allows for the quantification of exogenous sugar added during the fermentation process, which is used to increase the alcohol content of the wine. This control is also needed for the detection of frauds, such as mislabeling regarding both ingredients and origin.
Most laboratories will seek alternative or complimentary techniques for authenticating wine. A few months ago, I blogged about using an ion chromatography method to verify the authenticity of your wine. I was also captivated by the poster, Related Seasonal and Geographical Differences in Wine from California’s Central Coast, which describes how a high performance liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (LC-MS) configuration was successfully implemented to analyze several wine varieties from different areas to show simultaneous detection and relative quantification of the wine’s components.
Wine authenticity is a fascinating subject, and I will leave you with this unbelievable but true story. In 1989, a bottle of 1787 Château Margaux from Thomas Jefferson’s wine collection was valued at more than $500,000 by its owner, William Sokolin, a New York wine merchant. At a dinner, it was accidentally knocked over and broke. What’s more, the insurers paid $225,000 for the loss of the wine.
And to get back to where I started—I went to the supermarket and picked up a cheap bottle of wine. I don’t think anyone was the wiser, either.
Consumers want to know what’s in their food, from artificial sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup to dyes and pesticides. The latest hot-button issue surrounds foods made from genetically modified organisms (GMO) and the demand for companies to indicate on labeling whether a product contains GMOs.
In a recent Q&A with Food Safety Tech, James Cook, Food Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Manager at SGS, briefly discusses the challenges and misconceptions surrounding GMOs and labeling.
Food Safety Tech: What are the biggest challenges food companies face in communicating that their products are GMO-free?
James Cook: The biggest challenge for a company is to determine what words or phrases can be used concerning the regulations and/or laws of country that the product will be received into. Companies want to use GMO free, a terminology recognized by consumers, which is actually prohibited in certain locations such as the European Union (EU), and discouraged by the FDA.
FST: How has public (consumer) awareness of this issue complicated matters?
Cook: There is a diverse difference in dealing with the consumers in the EU that have a clear knowledge and unfortunately outrage to GMOs, and the consumers from the United States, where some have no idea what GMOs are.
FST: Are there misconceptions among consumers that present additional challenges to food companies?
Cook: The biggest misconceptions are: Everything created by humankind is evil, food crops have never changed, and the government and the industry are lying. Another misconception is that in the future, we will have enough food to feed the world population, without making significant changes in the way we produce food.
FST: What are the most critical developments regarding state and federal labeling laws that we need to know about?
Cook: At this time, the Vermont law is the only breakthrough for the requirement [of] GMO labeling in the United States. If some non-government organization obtains passage of their bill through U.S Congress then this law will not come into effect. If this law becomes effective, we will have many states issuing and passing a similar law, as their consumers will want to know why this is required in Vermont but not in their states.
FST: Where do you see the GMO issue headed over the next year or so?
Cook: We will have some sort of GMO labeling law in the United States. Whether this law only affects one state or all of the U.S. is still unknown. Even if this is not solved, more locations in the United States will continue to ban the growing of GMO crops. Eventually these bans will make it into the courts, because you are dictating to a farmer what crops they can grow and sell.
FST: What key questions will you address during the GMO Labeling webinar?
Cook: What does my company need to do in order to verify to a Non-GMO program? Does one have to review the entire supply chain in order to prove the product is GMO free? Why isn’t GMO product just labeled as such in the USA? Why the vast difference of GMO policies between EU and USA?
The company has broadened species identification product line created in partnership with University of Guelph and plans to release additional test kits during the year.
InstantLabs announced today the expansion of its SpeciesID product line by offering DNA-based tests for Atlantic and Coho salmon. InstantLabs SpeciesID™ tests provide accurate DNA verification in under two hours.
The launch of the salmon test kits highlights InstantLabs’ efforts to meet market demand by expanding the affordable, simple-to-use InstantID™ product line. The company already offers kits to identify Atlantic Blue Crab, pork and horse meat. The InstantLabs’ system gives food wholesalers, processors and inspectors a fast and reliable option for product tests.
The two new products were created in partnership with the University of Guelph, an international leader in agricultural and food science. The InstantID test kits for Atlantic (Salmo salar) and Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) are the first of four salmon assays planned for release during 2015. InstantLabs will launch InstantID™ for Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and Sockeye (Oncorhynchus nerka) salmon later this year.
Expanding its presence in the high-demand seafood market, the Baltimore-based manufacturer of the Hunter® system expects to also release InstantID™ kits for snapper, catfish, grouper, and tilapia.
“Producers, wholesalers and government entities needs robust tools to combat seafood fraud,” said Steven Guterman, chief executive officer of InstantLabs. “InstantLabs’ real-time PCR testing systems and reagent kits can become an integral part in a testing program to verify labeling accuracy.”
InstantLabs’ Hunter® Real-Time PCR instrument combines accuracy, speed, and ease-of-operation into a compact portable system. The Hunter system is designed for use at points-of-need to detect and analyze a wide variety of food samples by targeting DNA. Results delivered quickly allow seamless integration into food industry firms’ processes and facilities.
Dr. Robert Hanner, Ph. D., has directed the University of Guelph’s research in conjunction with InstantLabs. “This collaboration has been essential in commercializing DNA-based food authentication tests for the seafood industry,” said Dr. Hanner, associate professor at the Center of Biodiversity Genomics. “This technology will help safeguard against existing supply chain vulnerabilities, protecting both businesses and consumers from food fraud.”
InstantLabs identification tests are designed for use on the Hunter, a real-time PCR system developed by the company, and are also available for use with other PCR instruments.
Seafood industry reports continue to highlight concerns about fraud, species substitution and consumer preferences to use sustainable fish stocks. Approximately one-third of all fish sold in the U.S. was mislabeled, reported a recent survey from Oceana. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration identifies a range of lower valued fish regularly substituted for 20 higher-priced species. InstantLabs will provide critical tool sets needed by the industry to ensure the integrity of the supply chain.
InstantLabs, a molecular diagnostic device company, developed and markets the Hunter® Accelerated-PCR system, a fully-integrated, easy-to-use, portable and affordable real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) platform for rapid, accurate pathogen detection. InstantLabs Medical Diagnostics Corp., the legal entity, offers the Hunter® system for use with several food-borne pathogen test kits for the global food industry. The Hunter® system is especially well suited for use at points-of-care and points-of-need to detect and analyze a wide variety of common and problematic pathogens. InstantLabs’ growing worldwide customer base includes some of the world’s leading food companies. InstantLabs is also developing products for additional markets, including medical diagnostics where gold-standard accuracy, combined with Ease-of-use and rapid results, are critical. Founded in 2008, InstantLabs is located in Baltimore, MD. For more information please visit www.instantlabs.com.
ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH:
Acknowledged as one of the leading public research universities, the University has 39 Canada Research chairs in natural sciences, energy, health services and social sciences. With a commitment to student learning and innovative research, University leaders are dedicated to cultivating the essentials for our quality of life – water, food, environment, animal and human health, community, commerce, culture and learning. The University community also shares a profound sense of social responsibility, an obligation to address global issues and a concern for international development. Learn more at www.uoguelph.ca.
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