Tag Archives: olive oil

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Fraudulent Dinner Is Served

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

Due to extensive opportunities for fraud, the lack of an adequate monitoring system, cost pressures in the industry, and lack of transparency in the food supply chain, amongst other factors, fraudulent food products still pose a significant risk within the hospitality industry. A recent study discusses the food service food fraud vulnerability assessment (FS-FFCA), showing as an example that one-third of extra virgin olive oil samples at restaurants and catering facilities were adulterated. More tools are urgently needed to protect consumers and legitimate operations from illicit activities.

Resource

  1. van Ruth, S.M., et al. (March 9, 2020): “Feeding fiction: Fraud vulnerability in the food service industry”. Food Research International, Volume 133, July 2020, 109158

 

Karen Everstine, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Public Food Standards

By Karen Everstine, Ph.D., Steven M. Gendel, Ph.D.
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Karen Everstine, Decernis

In 1995, a honey processing company was indicted on charges of adulterating industrial honey labeled “USDA Grade A” with corn syrup to increase profits. Ultimately, the jury found in favor of the honey processor, in part because there “weren’t enough regulations governing honey to make the charge stick.”

Honey is defined as “the natural sweet substance produced by honey bees” from the nectar of plants. However, there is not currently an FDA standard of identity for honey in the United States, which would further define and specify the allowed methods of producing, manufacturing and labeling honey (there is, however, a nonbinding guidance document for honey). Some of the details of honey production that a standard of identity might address include allowable timing and levels of supplemental feeding of bees with sugar syrups and the appropriate use of antibiotics for disease treatment.

In circumstances where strict regulatory standards for foods are not available, they may be created by other organizations.

What Is a Food Standard?

A food standard is “a set of criteria that a food must meet if it is to be suitable for human consumption, such as source, composition, appearance, freshness, permissible additives, and maximum bacterial content.”1

To ensure quality, facilitate trade, and reduce fraud, everyone in the supply chain must have a shared expectation of what each food or ingredient should be. Public standards set those expectations and allow them to be shared. They help ensure that stakeholders have a common definition of quality and purity, as well as the test methods and specifications used to demonstrate that quality and purity. Public standards help ensure fair trade, quality and integrity in food supply chains.

How Is a Standard Different from a Method?

A method is generally an analytical technique to assess a particular property of the content or safety of a food or food ingredient. For example, methods for detection of nitrates in meat products or baby food, coliforms in nut products, or high fructose syrups in honey. Methods are an important component of food standards.

A food standard goes a step further and provides an integrated set of components to define a substance and enable verification of that substance. Standards generally include a description of the substance and its function, one or more identification tests and assays (along with acceptance criteria) to appropriately characterize the substance and ensure its quality, a description of possible impurities and limits for those impurities (if applicable), and other information as needed (see Figure 1).

FCC Standard, USP
Figure 1. The Anatomy of an FCC Standard (Source: Food Science Program, Food Chemicals Codex, USP)

Figure 1. The Anatomy of an FCC Standard (Source: Food Science Program, Food Chemicals Codex, USP)

A standard defines both what a food or food ingredient should be and documents how to demonstrate compliance with that definition.

Public Standards and Food Fraud Prevention

Many of the foods prone to fraud are those that are not simple food ingredients, but agricultural products that can be more complex to characterize and identify (such as honey, extra virgin olive oil, spices, etc.). Milk products are an example of a commodity that is prone to fraud with a wide range of adulterants (for example, fluid cow’s milk is associated with 155 adulterants in the Food Fraud Database). Ensuring the quality and purity of a product link milk requires implementation of multiple analytical techniques or the development of non-targeted methods.

The creation of effective public standards with input by a range of stakeholders will be particularly important for ensuring the quality, safety and accurate labeling of these high value commodities in the future.

Reference

  1. A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition 2005, Oxford University Press.

Resources

  1. The Food Chemicals Codex is a source of public standards for foods and food ingredients. It was created by the U.S. FDA and the National Institute of Medicine in 1966 and is currently published by the nonprofit organization USP. The FCC contains 1250 standards for food ingredients, which are developed by expert volunteers and posted for public comment before publication.
  2. The Decernis Food Fraud Database is a continuously updated collection of food fraud records curated specifically to support vulnerability assessments. Information is gathered from global sources and is searchable by ingredient, adulterant, country, and hazard classification. Decernis also partners with standards bodies to provide information about fraudulent adulterants to support standards development.
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Not a Well-Oiled Machine

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

A large recall was initiated by the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply for Brazilian olive oil unfit for human consumption, and retailers and traders are requested to report and pull faulty products off the shelves. Large fines will be issued for non-compliance. The fake olive oils are sold very cheaply, but may be a health hazard. An infrared analysis was made to check the composition of fatty acids, which uncovered the fraud.

Resource

  1. Janete Lima – Coordenação-geral de Comunicação Social (July 5, 2019). “Ministério proíbe venda de azeite de oliva de seis marcas após descoberta de fraudes”. The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply, Brazil.
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

No Olive Branch for Olive Oil Fraudsters

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

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

Resources

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

Jeff Moore, USP
FST Soapbox

Fighting the Reality of Food Fraud

By Jeff Moore, Ph.D.
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Jeff Moore, USP

Economically motivated adulteration (EMA) of food, or food fraud, has been estimated to cost the food industry $30–40 billion per year. The 2008 incident of melamine adulteration of milk powder has cost billions of dollars to companies and invaluable loss of consumer confidence. Even more significant than the economic cost or loss of confidence, the impact on public health was enormous. An estimated 290,000 consumers were affected with more than 50,000 hospitalizations including at least six deaths. There is also collateral damage caused by incidences of EMA, including the loss of confidence in government regulatory systems around food safety. Although major incidents like the melamine scandal happen infrequently, food fraud commonly occurs under the radar. According to a 2014 report by the Congressional Research Service, it is estimated that up to 10% of the food supply could be affected by food fraud Thus, the costs of fraud food are borne by industry, regulators and, ultimately, consumers.

Attend the Food Safety Supply Chain Conference, June 5–6, 2017 in Rockville, MD | LEARN MOREFood fraud is not a new phenomenon. During the time of the Roman Empire, Pliny the Elder wrote in Natural History about the adulteration of wine, bread and pepper, and tracked the fluctuation of their prices with the appearance of adulteration. In Medieval Germany, the adulteration of saffron was such a problem that the Safranschou Code was enacted, which described standards for saffron and allowed convicted adulterators to be executed.1 When there is an opportunity for economic gain, adulterators tend to come out of the woodwork.

As recently as the 1980s, food fraud was mostly an event confined to local markets. In 1981 the adulteration of olive oil with an industrial lubricant injured thousands and killed hundreds, but because the oil was not widely distributed, the primary effects were limited to Spain. Similarly, when apple juice adulteration occurred in the United States in the 1980s, the consequences were basically confined to the United States.

However, with the increasing globalization of the food supply chain and freer movement of foods and ingredients among countries, the opportunities for food fraud not only increased, but the consequences also now more easily have a global impact. By the late 1990s, the global consequences of food fraud became more evident with the contamination of fats intended for animal feed with industrial oils containing PCBs and dioxins. This scandal, which started with an oil recycler in Belgium, led to massive recalls of products throughout Europe and concerns about contaminated products reaching the United States. The impact of this episode arguably changed the food safety environment in Europe and led to the formation of the European Food Safety Authority. Likewise, the fallout from the adulteration of wheat gluten with melamine in 2008 likely contributed to the passage of new food safety legislation in the United States, including FSMA.

FDA has always acted against food fraud whenever there was an indication of public health hazards. With the passage of FSMA and the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule (published in September 2015), the agency has come full circle to its roots with Harvey W. Wiley, M.D. and his famous Poison Squad. Dr. Wiley formed his famous group to go after adulterators of foods. The Poison Squad was famously known for their willingness to consume suspect foods to test for adulteration. FDA’s history of Dr. Wiley states that “In the 1880s, when Wiley began his 50-year crusade for pure foods, America’s marketplace was flooded with poor, often harmful products. With almost no government controls, unscrupulous manufacturers tampered with products, substituting cheap ingredients for those represented on labels: Honey was diluted with glucose syrup; olive oil was made with cottonseed; and “soothing syrups” given to babies were laced with morphine. The country was ready for reform…” While the opportunities for fraud have not changed, luckily we no longer have to rely on human volunteers to detect adulterated food.

The new Preventive Controls rule published in September addresses EMA when there is a reasonable possibility that adulteration could result in a public health hazard. Companies are required to conduct a written hazard analysis, which should include hazards identification and evaluation. Companies are expected to identify “…known or reasonably foreseeable hazards that may be present in the food…The hazard may be intentionally introduced for the purposes of economic gain.”[i]  While companies were previously expected to be knowledgeable about microbiological hazards in their products, it appears that they now also have the responsibility to be knowledgeable about known or reasonably foreseeable hazards from EMA.

How can organizations identify potential EMA threats as part of hazards analysis? One way is via the Food Fraud Database, which is designed to help answer this question by taking a look into the past. Launched in 2012, the database provides the information necessary to identify ingredients with a past pattern or history of adulteration and the adulterants used—a perfect fit for the EMA requirement in FSMA. The database has more than 140,000 users from 194 countries documented.

After identifying an ingredient with a pattern/history of EMA, companies need to determine whether the ingredient may introduce potential food safety hazards and how to develop a control plan in response. To address those issues, USP undertook a project in 2013 to take a more holistic approach to identifying EMA vulnerable ingredients by looking at factors beyond history. It assembled a group of leading food adulteration experts to develop a first-of-its-kind guidance document that offers a framework for the food industry to help develop and implement preventive management systems to deal specifically with EMA.

The Food Fraud Mitigation Guidance became official in the Food Chemicals Codex (FCC) in September 2015, just as FSMA’s Preventive Rule for Human Food was published. The aim of the guidance is to assist manufacturers and regulators with identifying the ingredients most vulnerable to fraud in their supply chains and how to choose effective mitigation tools to combat EMA. This is a significant leap forward in the battle against food fraud—and a way to get ahead of criminals engaging in EMA. The guidance provides not only a solution to deal with FSMA’s EMA provision, but goes beyond FSMA to help organizations fulfill GFSI requirements to conduct a food fraud vulnerability assessment and control plan.

Thenadier (The innkeeper), in Les Miserables said in the lyrics of Master of the House:

“…

watering the wine and making up the weight

Food beyond compare. Food beyond belief

Mix it in a mincer and pretend it’s beef

Kidney of a horse, liver of a cat

Filling up the sausages with this and that”

While deceiving the unwary can seem humorous in fiction, in real-life food fraud can have extremely serious consequences to consumers and everyone involved with the production of safe food. There are multiple large-scale efforts in many regions and countries to address food fraud. The attention that is now focused on food fraud and the development of new tools such as Food Fraud Database cast a bright light that will hopefully make it more difficult for food fraudsters to operate.

Reference

  1. Willard, P. (2002), Secrets of Saffron: The Vagabond Life of the World’s Most Seductive Spice, Beacon Press, ISBN 978-0-8070-5009-5