The following infographic is a snapshot of the hazard trends in nuts, nut products and seeds from Q3 2019. The information has been pulled from the HorizonScan quarterly report, which summarizes recent global adulteration trends using data gathered from more than 120 reliable sources worldwide. For the past several weeks, Food Safety Tech has provided readers with hazard trends from various food categories included in this report. This week’s hazard snapshot concludes the series.
In a large study of nearly 6000 products, more than a quarter (27%) of herbal medicines and foods sold in 37 countries on six continents was found to be deliberately or accidentally adulterated. In this study, the products, which came in a variety of forms such as softgels, tea and more, were analyzed with high throughput DNA sequencing and showed mislabeling, added fillers, substituted ingredients or contaminants. Such fraud can be a harmful to consumer health and safety, and must be monitored and tracked closely.
Ichim, M.C. (October 24, 2019). “The DNA-Based Authentication of Commercial Herbal Products Reveals Their Globally Widespread Adulteration”. “Stejarul” Research Centre for Biological Sciences, National Institute of Research and Development for Biological Sciences, Piatra Neamt, Romania. Frontiers in Pharmacology. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2019.01227/full.
Pet food is a highly profitable business. Global pet food sales hit a record $90 billion in 2018, and adulterated or mislabeled feed is not uncommon. In the United States, the FDA ensures correct labeling and adherence to quality standards in pet food. Over the course of six years, a processing facility in Texas shipped low quality, mislabeled ingredients such as feathers and by-products, labeled as premium single ingredients, to pet food manufacturers and distributors. The guilty party had to pay $4.5 millions in restitution to the fraud victims, and the defendant is on a five year probation.
Over the course of three years, wholesale meat fraudsters in Brooklyn, NY, removed the USDA stamp on “Choice” beef and applied a counterfeit USDA “Prime” stamp to sell the fraudulently labeled meat at a premium price. A conviction can get the defendants a prison sentence of up to 20 years, even public health was not endangered, however, the USDA is taking integrity and quality of food very seriously.
Who doesn’t enjoy a nice Insalata Caprese or pizza Margherita with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella? Based on regulations in the EU and Italy, mozzarella di bufala is supposed to be made with buffalo milk only. “Bufala” in Italian may also mean “media hoax”, however, in this case, science shows that there is indeed “no bufala”. Multiple reaction monitoring mass spectrometry brings wide-spread fraught to light, showing that two-thirds of the tested supermarket and restaurant products are made with much cheaper cow’s milk, according to a study published in Food Control.
A scientific study of 100 “single species” sausage, such as beef, pork, chicken, turkey and others, was conducted in Canada. It found that 14% of sausages were mislabeled as single species but contained additional undeclared species. There is some encouraging news, however: While this is still an issue that requires monitoring, 14% mislabeling is a lower rate than detected in a previous study conducted a year ago. The samples were tested at the molecular level with DNA Barcoding and ddPCR (Droplet Digital Polymerase Chain Reaction) to detect the species via their DNA.
Hundreds of seafood samples from U.S. grocery stores, seafood markets and restaurants were analyzed in 2018, and a large rate of mislabeling was found. Cheaper catch, for example, gets mislabeled as higher value fish, especially sea bass, snapper or halibut. Other frauds include illegally caught fish or seafood mislabeled as sustainable, covering up harmful environmental practices. In spite of federal government policy measures already in place, many gaps that allow seafood fraud to largely go undetected still exist.
O., Warner, K., Roberts, W., Mustain, P., Lowell, B., & Swain, M. (2019, March 11). Casting a Wider Net: More Action Needed to Stop Seafood Fraud in the United States. https://doi.org/10.31230/osf.io/sbm8h
Last year, nearly 550 food products were recalled in the United States. Nearly half of those recalls were a result of biological contamination, a whopping 65% of which was due to Listeria monocytogenes, according to Rentokil. The company recently released an infographic about the cost of a product recall, pulling out some of the key trends in food product recalls in the United States and the United Kingdom. Next to biological contamination, mislabeling continues to be a large issue.
With more regulatory and consumer scrutiny being placed on the authenticity of food products, companies must use technologies that can verify products and ingredients, and detect contaminants. NSF International recently acquired AuthenTechnologies, a testing laboratory that provides DNA-species identification services to improve authenticity, safety and quality of natural products. Using shorter segments and validated reference materials, AuthenTechnologies employs a DNA sequencing method that can identify “almost any” species and detect contaminants that cannot be distinguished morphologically or chemically. The method also screens for allergens, GMOs, fillers and filth.
“As the food supply chain becomes more complex and regulations continue to evolve and become more rigorous, this technology is becoming essential to achieving regulatory compliance and brand protection while preventing issues associated with fraud, mislabeling and adulteration,” said Lori Bestervelt, Ph.D, international executive vice president and chief technology officer at NSF, in a company release. AuthenTechnologies’ co-founder Danica Harbaugh Reynauld, Ph.D., adds, “We’ve developed a more highly specific DNA methodology capable of identifying a single organism to a complex blend of unlimited ingredients.” Reynauld, who will join NSF as global director of scientific innovation, will lead the NSF AuthenTechnologies center of excellence with NSF’s global network of labs.
In comparison to DNA barcoding, next-generation DNA sequencing is highly specific and can identify species in highly processed materials and complex mixtures. DNA barcoding is unable to differentiate between closely related species and is less suitable in detecting extracts as well.
Full traceability throughout the entire seafood supply chain is recommended following a study released yesterday by Oceana involving the mislabeling of salmon. The organization found that 43% of samples taken from restaurants and grocery stores were mislabeled, with DNA testing uncovering that 69% of mislabeling involved farmed Atlantic salmon that was labeled and sold as wild-caught salmon. According to Oceana, the report is the largest salmon mislabeling study in the United States yet.
“The federal government should provide consumers with assurances that the seafood they purchase is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled,” said Beth Lowell, senior campaign director at Oceana in a press release. “Traceability needs to be required for all seafood to ensure important information about which species it is, whether it was farmed or wild caught, and how and where it was caught follows all seafood from boat (or farm) to plate.”
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Oceana combined a nationwide study of 384 samples with a winter survey of 82 samples to learn whether there was a correlation between time and location. Findings revealed that the majority of the mislabeling in restaurants occurred when the fish was out of season. In addition, high rates of mislabeling were found on the East coast—37% in New York City, 45% in Washington, DC, and 48% in Virginia. It is important to note that the 43% of the samples deemed mislabeled derived from the smaller winter survey.
Samples were considered mislabeled if:
Described as wild, Pacific, or Alaska and DNA testing proved them to be farmed Atlantic salmon
Labeled as a specific type of salmon but testing proved them to be a different species
In the report Oceana takes issue with FDA’s guidance on seafood naming, calling it “neither clear nor consistent”, along with Country of Origin Labeling for seafood. The organization urges the Presidential Task Force on fish and seafood fraud (established last year) to set forth a requirement that all seafood sold domestically have documentation proving it came from a legal source, along with full supply chain traceability. The task force released its final action plan in March, but Oceana is asking that the group expand documentation requirements as a market access condition. Oceana’s full report provides a breakdown of its investigation.
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