Tag Archives: labs

Food Lab

Four Testing and Detection Trends for 2022

By Wilfredo Dominguez Nunez, Ph.D.
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Food Lab

COVID-19 continues to pose challenges for every industry, influencing how they will need to adapt to the future. The food manufacturing industry specifically is continuing to see problems with plants shutting down due to outbreaks, labor shortages and domino-effect supply chain issues, forcing them to adjust in order to continue meeting the demands of customers and supplying safe food to the public.

With these adjustments in mind, changes in testing and detection in labs have arisen, influencing four main trends within food manufacturing labs expected throughout 2022.

1. Testing levels continue to increase. In 2021, some customers intentionally planned to cut testing and production in plants to balance out the loss of employees due to the pandemic-induced labor shortages within manufacturing roles.

However, following the trends of rising employment in manufacturing, 2022 should see an increase in testing, raising the baseline of production levels in the plants. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, manufacturing jobs saw an increase of more than 113,000 employees in Q4 of 2021. Although still below employment levels of February 2020, the continued increase is positive news for the food manufacturing industry.

2. Food testing labs turn to automation technology. Even as labs begin to see their numbers in employees rise, the demand for automation technology during 2022 will continue to climb given its proven ability to increase productivity in the lab and meet the demands of customers. With automation technology, lab technicians can multi-task thanks to the ability to step away from tests, increasing the amount of testing that can be done despite the lack of people in labs.

Additionally, utilizing ready-to-use products has cut down on the time it takes to prepare for testing. Rather than spending hours preparing Petri dishes and using an autoclave, ready-to-use Petri films or Petri dishes create easy to follow protocols with significantly less steps for a lab technician to complete.

3. Third-party labs gain popularity. With food manufacturing, tests will either be conducted on-site or at a third-party lab. Taking labor shortages into account, many manufacturers still do not have the staff numbers to maintain a dedicated on-site testing facility. As a result, manufacturers will turn to third-party labs to help increase testing volumes and productivity.

Not only have third-party labs aided manufacturers with testing, but the labs also often have the capabilities to run confirmation tests on products, tests that may not have been possible if conducted on-site. And as third-party labs have seen numerous consolidations in recent years, their capability to move products around for necessary testing is much more simplified and achievable than if testing was conducted on-site.

4. Shifting to locally sourced products. With supply chain issues continuing into 2022, the food manufacturing industry could source more products from local farmers and other local product suppliers in order to better keep up with demand.

Right now, it is much harder to receive and send products across the globe with countries and states enforcing COVID-19 restrictions and dealing with their own labor issues. Not only are labs looking to rely on locally sourced products to assist in getting products to their final destination, but consumers are also increasing their demand for locally sourced products. Specifically, consumers are looking for the reliability of food on the shelves, shorter time spent between farmer and grocery stores, as well as simply fewer people touching product throughout the chain.

Challenges in food testing labs that arose in the past couple of years are still prevalent in 2022, but from adversity comes innovation and change. With more attention on automation technology, more food manufacturing employees returning to work, and adjustments to ongoing supply chain issues, 2022 is looking more hopeful in working to return to the level of productivity food manufacturers were meeting prior to the pandemic.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

To Bee Or Not To Bee

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

Fake honey is an enormous economical burden on beekeepers and consumers around the world. Adulteration methods are becoming more and more sophisticated. Besides the old-fashioned scams of real honey getting diluted or replaced by syrup, new tricks show up, for example pollen getting blended into syrup, chemical alteration of syrup to confuse tests, fake honey traveling through a number of countries to mask its country of origin, or a combination of these methods. Since the adulterated honey does not pose a risk to consumer’s health, government enforcement to detect and punish honey adulteration has not been very strong. So far, authenticity tests are mostly left to the private sector and the honey industry.


  1. Copeland, C. (August 26, 2020). “Honey is one of the most faked foods in the world, and the US government isn’t doing much to fix it“. Business Insider.
Michele Pfannenstiel, Dirigo Food Safety
FST Soapbox

Quality Assurance and Food Safety in Cannabis-Infused Products

By Michele Pfannenstiel, DVM
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Michele Pfannenstiel, Dirigo Food Safety

The legal cannabis-infused products industry is growing with impressive and predictable rapidity. But because the rollout of new regulations occurs in an awkward and piecemeal fashion, with stark differences from one state to another, and sometimes even one county to another, uncertainty reigns.1 Many entrepreneurs are diving headlong into the nascent industry, hoping to take advantage of an uncertain regulatory environment where government audits and inspections are rare. These business owners will see quality assurance and product safety as burdens—costs to be avoided to the greatest extent possible.

I have seen this time and time again, even in the comparatively well-regulated food industry, and it is always a mistake.

If you find yourself thinking about quality assurance or food safety as a prohibitive cost, annoyance or distraction, I encourage you to change your thinking on this issue. The most successful businesses realize that product safety and quality assurance are inextricably linked with profitability. They are best thought of not as distractions, but as critical elements of an efficient and optimized process. Proper QA and safety are not costs, they are value.

Food safety and quality assurance should be seen as important elements of the process that you undertake to enforce the high standards and consistency that will win you repeat customers. The fact that they guard against costly recalls or satisfy meddlesome auditors is only a bonus. Realizing this will make your business smarter, faster and more profitable.

Learn more about the science, technology, regulatory compliance and quality management issues surrounding cannabis at the Food Labs / Cannabis Labs Conference | June 2–4, 2020If today you cannot clearly communicate your product standards to your employees and to your customers, then you have some work to do. That’s because quality assurance always begins with precise product specifications. (A good definition of “quality” is “conformance to specifications.”) How can you assess quality if you don’t have a definitive standard with which to evaluate it? My consulting firm works with food businesses both small and large, and this is where we begin every relationship. You might be surprised how often even a well-established business has a difficult time naming and describing every one of its products, let alone articulating objective standards for them.

This may be doubly difficult for fledgling businesses in the cannabis world. Because the market is so new, there are fewer agreed-upon standards to fall back on.

When we help businesses create specifications, we always look at the relevant regulations while keeping in mind customer expectations. In cannabis, the regulations just aren’t as comprehensive as they are for conventional food and agriculture. Laws and guidelines are still in flux, and different third-party standards are still competing for market dominance. Different states have entirely different standards, and don’t even agree, for example, whether cannabis edibles should be considered pharmaceuticals or food. To some extent, it’s the wild west of regulation, and as long as the federal government remains reluctant to impose national guidelines, it’s likely to remain so.

The wild west may be a good place for the unscrupulous, but it’s not good for business owners that care about the health of their customers and the long-term health of their brand. Don’t take advantage of confusing quality and safety standards by doing the least possible to get by. At some point there will be a scandal in this country when a novel cannabis product makes dozens of customers sick, or worse. You don’t want it to be yours.

With cannabis-infused products, there is a unique additional factor at play: The strength of THC and other psychoactive compounds. Again, there are few agreed-upon standards for potency testing, and relatively little oversight of the laboratories themselves. This allows labs to get sloppy, and even creates an incentive for them to return inflated THC counts; at the very least, results may hugely differ from one lab to another even for identical products.2 Some labs are ISO 17025 accredited, and some are not. Using an unaccredited laboratory may prevent your efforts to create consistent and homogeneous products.

Even in comparatively well-regulated states, such as Colorado, it is ultimately your responsibility to create products that are safe and consistent. And in the states where the politicians haven’t even figured out which department is regulating cannabis products, your standards should be tougher than whatever is officially required.

And so we look to the more established world of conventional food and agriculture as a guide for the best practices in the cannabis industry.


The most constructive way to look at food safety, and the way your (eventual) auditors and regulators will view it, is to look at your product and process from the perspective of the potential hazards.

Some day, when regulation finally gets sorted out, you are likely to be asked to implement a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) safety system. HACCP framework recognizes three broad categories of hazards:

  • Physical hazards: Foreign material that is large enough to cause harm, such as glass or metal fragments.
  • Chemical hazards: Pesticides and herbicides, heavy metals, solvents and cleaning solutions.
  • Biological hazards: The pathogens that cause foodborne illness in your customers, such as E. coli, and other biological hazards, such as mycotoxins from molds.

All of these hazards are highly relevant to cannabis-infused product businesses.

The HACCP framework asks us to consider what steps in our process offer us the chance to definitively and objectively eliminate the risk of relevant hazards. In a cannabis cookie, for example, this might be a cooking step, a baking process that kills the Salmonella that could be lurking in your flour, eggs, chocolate or (just as likely!) the cannabis extracts themselves.

A good HACCP system is merely the capstone resting atop a larger foundational system of safety programs, including standard operating procedures, good manufacturing practices, and good agricultural practices. It’s important to use these agreed-upon practices and procedures in your own facility and to ensure that your suppliers and shippers are doing the same. Does your cultivator have a culture of safety and professionalism? Do they understand their own risks of hazards?

HACCP offers a rigorous perspective with which to look at a process, and to examine all of the places where it can go wrong. The safety system ultimately holds everything together because of its emphasis on scrupulous documentation. Every important step is written down, every time, and is always double-checked by a supervisor. It sounds like a lot of paperwork, but it is better viewed as an opportunity to enforce consistency and precision.

When you thoroughly document your process you’ll create a safer product, run a more efficient business, and make more money.


  1. Rough, L. (2016, March 4). Leafly’s State-by-State Guide to Cannabis Regulations. Retrieved from https://www.leafly.com/news/industry/leaflys-state-by-state-guide-to-cannabis-testing-regulations
  2. Jikomes, N. & Zoorob, M. (2018, March 14). The Cannabinoid Content of Legal Cannabis in Washington State Varies Systematically Across Testing Facilities and Popular Consumer Products. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-22755-2
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”.

MediaBox Sterile Liquids, EZ-Flow Gravimetric Diluter Automate Sample Prep

MediaBox broths and buffers are sterile, easy-to-use and come in a convenient stackable storage box with a long shelf life. Significantly reduce staff workload by removing weighing, measuring, mixing, autoclaving and cleaning glassware. MediaBox is supplied ready-to-use and is far easier to use than dry bags, which are difficult to fill, often leak and are not consistent from one bag to the next.

MediaBox directly connects to the EZ-Flow gravimetric diluter creating an automated system for weighing and diluting your samples. EZ-Flow automatically weighs samples and provides diluent from MediaBox for the correct dilution factor. Your lab will love the convenience and increased efficiency. Microbiology International offers a wide range of dosing systems to pair with your MediaBox of choice.

All MediaBox products pass strict quality control protocols and include Certificate of Analysis documentation. MediaBox sterile liquids come in 5L, 10L and 20L boxes.

Available types include Buffered Peptone Water, Modified UVM, mTSB, Demi-Fraser Broth Base, Phosphate Buffer, Butterfields, Lactose Broth, Sterile Water, LB Broth, PBS, and more. Custom formulations are available.

DuPont and Eurofins Partnership Launches Custom Food Protection to New Heights

By Maria Fontanazza
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The collaboration aims to help manufacturers increase product shelf life while maintaining safety and quality on a wider scale.

DuPont Nutrition & Health is joining forces with Eurofins Microbiology Laboratories, Inc. to deliver tailored food protection services with advanced analytical testing services. The agreement, which is initially being launched as a pilot program in the United States, combines DuPont’s expertise in food microbial ecology and its Detect + Protect service program with Eurofins’ capabilities in microbiological testing.

The food protection program will assist manufacturers with the microbial challenges they face in their production facilities while also addressing food spoilage and waste. Introducing antimicrobials can make food products last longer, but it’s important to ensure that the quality of those products is not affected. One of the goals of the partnership is to help food manufacturers reduce spoilage and expand the shelf life of their products without making such a compromise. “Detect + Protect targets clients that are all about comprehensive [food] safety and quality,” says Marc Scantlin, vice president, US Food Division at Eurofins. “Everything has an expiration date. How can we improve the timeline of keeping whole food safe while increasing shelf life?”

According to Nathalie Brosse, global market development, BioProtection at DuPont, the company has needed more space to build its Detect + Protect offering. DuPont will be leveraging Eurofins’ extensive lab capacity to make its program more widely available, while DuPont’s international client base opens the doors for Eurofins to expand its global reach.

From a logistics perspective, the partnership will also expedite sample turnaround, as the companies take advantage of the Eurofins microbiology lab in Louisville, KY. Located in close proximity to the UPS worldwide air hub, Eurofins can receive overnight samples between 2 am and 4:30 am, providing a faster turnaround of samples by nearly six to eight hours.

DuPont and Eurofins anticipate launching the partnership in Europe but are not disclosing dates yet.

FSMA to Expand Lab Responsibilities, Partnerships Essential

By Maria Fontanazza
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Partnerships between research and regulatory labs should strive to bridge information gaps with the goal of harmonizing standards, integrating lab networks, and expanding surveillance programs.

FSMA will add more responsibility to a laboratory’s plate, stressing the need to maximize research and develop an integrated approach to prioritizing risks. Under its general requirements, research and regulatory labs will be expected to examine performance standards, cooperate with federal partners within HHS and the Department of Homeland Security, and build a domestic capacity that encompasses federal, state and international partners.

Partnerships between research and regulatory labs should strive to bridge information gaps with the goal of harmonizing standards, integrating lab networks, and expanding surveillance programs. During the Food Labs Conference in March, Palmer A. Orlandi, PhD, CAPT, U.S. Public Health Service Sr. Science Advisor in the Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine at FDA, discussed how partnerships in the era of FSMA are crucial to facilitate innovation. “We’re not necessarily looking for someone to take our responsibilities, but we’re looking for someone to walk with us to do this,” said Orlandi.

For research and regulatory analytical capabilities to move forward, several needs and goals must be addressed:


•    Burden sharing
•    Expansion of the scope of testing programs (and the methods to support them)
•    Development of sampling strategies
•    Risk-informed prioritization strategy


•    Capacity building
•    Methods that are rapid, sensitive, specific, easy to use, robust and portable
•    Ability to test at the source
•    Database of information that shows susceptibility for contamination and root cause, while also providing solutions for prevention
•    Targeted and statistically significant surveillance, with the ability for sharing

Examples of capacity-building partnerships include the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN), which is run by FDA and USDA. FERN is comprised of more than 170 state and federal labs, and has gone beyond its roots in emergency capacity, expanding into a food safety network that also participates in large-scale surveillance. The Integrated Food Safety System incorporates a Lab Task Group with seven subcommittees to develop standards in areas that include accreditation, methods, regulatory requirements, reporting, and sampling. International partnerships are currently being forged in Mexico and Canada.

View excerpt from Palmer Orlandi’s presentation about Partnerships & Innovation at the Food Labs Conference


What’s Next: Innovation, Technology and the Possibilities

Portable technology: A user-friendly, handheld rapid-screening instrument that requires minimal sample prep and is cost effective. Think Tricorder. Will it be possible to wave an instrument over a head of lettuce and detect bacterial contamination? What about detecting a spectrum of approved or unapproved pesticides or active pharmaceutical ingredients?

“This is where we would like to go,” said Orlandi. “Is it pie in the sky? Absolutely.  But if you don’t ask the big questions, if you only take the incremental steps, you’re only going to get so far.”

Orlandi pointed to X-ray fluorescence, which takes less than two minutes to perform sample analysis and ion mobility spectrometry, which can detect a small range of selected compounds in just 30 seconds, as technologies that have future potential.

FDA has a goal of bringing such innovative technologies to bear through its Broad Agency Announcements, a program that provides funding from $200,000 to $50 million to harness new technologies.

Orlandi also cited the Whole Genome Sequencing (WSGS) Collaborative as the next big technology. The GenomeTrakr is a federal and state network of 24 labs that collect and share genomic data from foodborne pathogens. This enormous data flow provides the ability to sequence and transmit and store data, involving domestic and international partners. One application example includes identifying antimicrobial resistance markers.

As FSMA increases industry requirements, “partnerships are going to spawn our capabilities to harmonize standards that will involve, then leads to mutual reliance,” said Orlandi. “We rely our partners’ data and their processes. This will lead to greater capabilities for surveillance and data sharing. All of these combined will lead to a greater food safety network.”

Related Content: Five Questions with Palmer Orlandi

Food Safety is Key Initiative as FDA Develops Lab Testing Standards

When President Barack Obama in 2011 signed the Food Safety Modernization Act, the most sweeping reform of American food safety laws in more than 70 years, the Food and Drug Administration’s job got a lot tougher.

As the FDA’s Palmer Orlandi explained at Pittcon [on March 9], they might need your help to get that job done. Orlandi, who spoke as part of the two-day Food Safety Tech Food Labs Conference at Pittcon, is the agency’s  acting chief science officer in the office of food and veterinary medicine. The FDA traditionally has been very good at reacting to safety issues in our food supply as they arise and finding the source of the problem, Orlandi said. But, now the agency is charged with more of a preventive role, which means identifying the biggest risks before they become a threat to the public. That’s a big job, and the FDA can’t do it alone. “We’re looking for burden-sharing,” Orlandi said.

Partnerships with other federal agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Homeland Security are part of the solution. They’re also working with state-level laboratories and even the private sector, he said. As an example, he cites the Food Emergency Response Network, which includes food-testing laboratories at the local, state, and federal levels. Initially formed to deal with bioterrorism threats, Orlandi said it has become a useful food safety network as well. FERN-affiliated labs recently tested 1,600 samples of avocados for salmonella and listeria, he said.

Much of the burden of this new preventive approach will fall on food producers. Orlandi said FDA is willing to work with private labs to develop standards. This can be tricky, however, because the agency doesn’t want to create the impression that it is somehow favoring one private sector entity over another. Meanwhile, private companies have their own trade secrets to protect. “Where is the middle ground where we can cooperate?” Orlandi asked rhetorically.

FDA has developed validation standards that field labs can use, he said. But, he concedes, the agency hasn’t done a good job compiling and publishing those standards into an accessible document or reaching out to stakeholders to make sure they’re up to speed. “That’s another thing on our to-do list,” he said.

Funding for these efforts is scarce. Joe Konschnik, a market research manager for Restek Chromatography Products who attended Orlandi’s presentation, helps to supply scientists working in College Park, MD to develop new procedures to analyze pesticides. Traditionally, once the research is published, the researchers’ jobs are over. Konschnik says now they’re trying to send the information out to other labs in the U.S. and overseas. That way, everyone can work from the same page to validate the work and create consistent standards.

One of the problems is that, for example, aerating seeds to run multilevel validation studies can cost $35,000, he said. But the FDA only has about $75,000 to fund such studies, which obviously would run out very quickly. “There’s no money to fund the back-end stuff,” Konschnik said. He said he works with the American Council of Independent Laboratories, which is willing to do the testing for free. But it still costs money for the FDA to make samples, send them to the labs, gather the data, and validate the data.

In short, the partnerships FDA is building remain a work in progress. But it has a new tool: the America Competes Act, which gives federal agencies the authority to award prizes for solving significant problems. The FDA has issued a “food safety challenge,” Orlandi said, looking for ways to reduce turnaround times on food safety tests, checking for salmonella, for example, from a few weeks to a day or two. The agency has a $500,000 prize pool, with $400,000 potentially going to the winner.

This article originally appeared in CEN media group’s Pittcon Today on Tuesday, March 10 and has been republished with permission. 

InstantLabs Launches DNA-based Atlantic and Coho Salmon SpeciesID Test Kits to Combat Seafood Mislabeling

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.


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.

Additional resources on seafood fraud: