Posts Tagged ‘food fraud’

How barcodes can help fight food fraud

October 7th, 2017
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Food ranks among the top five most valuable counterfeit markets

While it’s well-known by professionals in the food industry, many consumers are surprised to find out that food ranks in the top five most valuable counterfeit markets.

Fake food is such a problem worldwide that the growth of the global anti-counterfeiting market will outpace the overall market segment growth of the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries by roughly two to three times in the next five years, according to the Brand Protection and Product Traceability Market Research Report from PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.

And, North America alone will account for nearly half of the total growth in the global anti-counterfeit food packaging market.

The entire food supply chain requires new measures of safety to close the gaps when tracking, authenticating and locating products. These solutions will go far beyond the idea of a simple fix, creating added layers of supply chain security.

Within the layered approach to brand protection are overt technologies — barcodes, holograms, watermarks, embossing and etching — and covert technologies — taggants, UV, infrared and fluorescent inks, Smart technology and radio frequency identification (RFID).

While new technologies are in research and development, 1D barcodes continue to anchor track and trace technology.

The traditional 1D barcodes are used most often by three out of four companies for tracking incoming product from the source through delivery at the food manufacturing facility, to packaging. All the goods come in dated with lot codes that are scanned upon plant entry, throughout all internal phases and back out into the supply chain.

There will always be a need for human readable dates and markings. And consumers need to be able to easily read information on the label for so they know if the product they have is genuine.

The traditional 1D barcodes are used most often by three out of four companies for tracking incoming product from the source through delivery at the food manufacturing facility, to packaging.

All the goods come in dated with lot codes that are scanned upon plant entry, throughout all internal phases and back out into the supply chain.

However, while 1D barcodes remain dominant, 2D barcode usage growing is growing via QR codes that can hold pictures, videos and more. Three-dimensional codes are emerging but only offer a colored pattern 2D barcode. Smaller or even invisible barcode technology will expand as the push toward “uncluttered packaging” encourages clean-labeling, clear packaging and imperceptible embedded codes.

While smart labels/tags are growing in retail and inventory tracking, the perishable goods segment—like food—projects to grow at the highest rate (especially labels).

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EU-China Food Safety Project Ramps Up Fight Against Fraud

July 1st, 2017
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The Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast will lead one of the world’s largest food safety projects across Europe and China. The European Horizon 2020 program and Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) program have been awarded €10 million (US$11.2 million) towards an EU-China partnership to improve food safety and tackle food fraud.

The EU-China-Safe project will involve key players in the food industry, research organizations and Governments across two of the world’s largest trading areas.

Food fraud manifests itself in many ways, from horse meat labeled and sold as beef like the scandal in Europe in 2013, to illicit oil which saw slaughterhouse waste and sewage used in cooking oil, known as the 2014 ‘gutter oil’ scandal in China.

EU-China-Safe will reduce food fraud and improve food safety through focusing on improving food legislation, food inspection and increasing access to information across both continents.

State-of-the-art technologies including a virtual laboratory will create a unique space to share and demonstrate best practice. The use of innovative technologies will result in improved detection of adulteration of food products as well as increased traceability and transparency of global supply chains.

“We are delighted that The Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University will lead this important project, bringing together key stakeholders in the global food system across two of the world’s largest trading markets,” says Professor Elliott, Pro-Vice Chancellor at Queen’s and project co-ordinator.

Professor Yongning Wu, Chief Scientist from the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment, co-ordinator of the Chinese efforts in the project, added: “The EU-China-Safe partnership between our two trading regions is of immense importance to help deliver safe and genuine food to all citizens.”

“Working together across China and the EU will enable us to identify where food fraud is happening, address the root causes and thereby enable us to improve food safety standards for all our citizens.”

Reported instances of food fraud are on the increase and occur on a global scale, worth an estimated US$52 billion globally each year. Food fraud is a global issue demanding a global response. The increasingly complex global food supply network increases the risks of serious food borne illness.

“This project will tackle these highly connected issues in a way that will serve to better protect several billion people. There is a pressing need to act internationally in response to emerging threats to food safety and fraud. Working together as a coalition of 33 partners to share knowledge and maximize our technologies will empower the food industry to provide safer, authentic food and will boost consumers’ confidence and ultimately facilitate the expansion of EU-China trade,” adds Professor Elliott.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) is the only university in Hong Kong to participate in this significant food safety initiative. PolyU is glad to bring its cutting-edge food safety innovations and technologies to the international arena, by working together with 32 partners in EU and China, two of the world’s largest economies.

Through its pioneering research, its various technology development and collaborative research platforms established, as well as the university’s long-term engagement with the industry, government, research institutes and non-profit-organizations, PolyU will continue to contribute towards the advancement of global food safety in collaboration with stakeholders.

The partnership is made up of 33 partners, including 15 in the EU and 18 in China.

Barcode Technology

Meanwhile a smart universal tool based on a simplified DNA barcoding technique combined with nanotechnology enables food authentication with the naked eye – answering the question “Is the food on the shelf really that what is written on the label?”

Through the journal Angewandte Chemie, Italian scientists have introduced a simplified assay coined NanoTracer. Combining DNA barcoding with nanotechnology, it requires neither expensive tools nor extremely skilled personnel, but just the naked eye to identify a color change.

The DNA barcoding technology identifies an organism by a short unique DNA sequence, the “barcode”. This barcode used for animal species, and therefore for meat products, is the sequence of a gene of mitochodria, which are cell organelles. Its sequence tells the examiner if the product on the shelf contains exactly the species that is declared on the label, not a substituted or a diluted one.

However, DNA barcoding requires elaborate procedures and takes time. Therefore, Pier Paolo Pompa at the Italian Institute of Technology IIT, Genoa, and his colleagues from University of Milano-Bicocca (M. Labra), Italy, have developed a much simpler version of the test, termed NanoTracer, which requires fewer and cheaper reagents, scarce instrumentation, and features a simple color change as its output.

Its main concept is the reduction of the long barcode regions to short subregions, in which the species nevertheless show enough divergence.

Shorter sequences have the advantage that even DNA can be identified that is no longer intact, as it happens in finished foods. The short sequences are then amplified by a polymerase chain reaction process. This step includes the second innovation.

“Our assay includes a universal sequence, which serves to prime the aggregation of (universal) DNA-functionalized gold nanoparticles, with consequent red-to-violet color change.” Or, in other words, if the sample DNA sequence matches that of the simplified barcode primers, the respective DNA segment is amplified, and the added nanogold agent aggregates, turning the test solution’s color from red to violet,” says the author.

Using their assay, the scientists tested European perch, which is often substituted by cheaper fish species, and saffron powder, a high-value spice, which is frequently diluted with other herbs.

Both products were distinctly identified with NanoTracer, and the presence of substitutes or cheaper diluents was detected.

As the authors point out, their simplified assay is rapid (it takes less than three hours) and sensitive, uses raw food material, is parallelizable, involves simple low-cost technology and materials, and therefore can be performed in decentralized simple laboratories at low cost.



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Food fraud database resource updated

August 27th, 2016
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In an effort to help food manufacturers and retailers make informed decisions about ingredients and products in their portfolios that may have a greater potential of being adulterated, the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) has launched an update to its Food Fraud Database (FFD 2.0), reportedly the largest collection of food fraud records in the world.
In a release sent out by the USP, the goal of the revised database service is to provide brand protection, increase consumer trust and support new food safety regulations recently finalized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Food Fraud Database version 2.0 is a continuously updated collection of thousands of ingredients and related records gathered from scientific literature, media publications, regulatory reports, judicial records and trade associations from around the world and is available through an annual subscription (US$1,200/yr).

According to the release, food fraud, also referred to as economically-motivated adulteration (EMA), is a global problem, costing industry an estimated $10 to $15 billion annually and affecting as much as 10 per cent of the global food supply.

“Consumers today are more educated than ever, and manufacturers risk doing irreparable damage to their brands as a result of food fraud,” noted Todd Abraham of Mondel?z International and a member of USP’s Board of Trustees in the release. “The Food Fraud Database 2.0 provides food manufacturers with the ability to look at past incidents of fraud and take proactive steps to protect their supply chains – thus protecting their reputation and ensuring consumer confidence in their products.”

The release cites another advantage of database is its role in supporting compliance with new FDA regulatory requirements related to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) which requires food manufacturers and retailers to identify and analyze potential hazards including those resulting from food fraud as part of their food safety plans.

The release also notes that the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), the industry-driven initiative providing guidance on food safety management systems, has similar requirements to conduct food fraud vulnerability assessments and develop control plans.

“Substances used to adulterate food can include industrial dyes, plasticizers, allergens, or other substances not intended to be consumed by people,” notes Jeffrey Moore, Ph.D., science director for the food program at USP, in the release. “Smart mitigation of risks starts with reliable data, and the Food Fraud Database 2.0 is a first good step towards assessing the hazards potentially present in specific food supply chains.”

New features in the database allow users to identify historical trends and vulnerabilities along with automatic alerts of new records of food fraud and automated analytics for ingredients of interest.

For more information on the Food Fraud database 2.0 and other food fraud prevention tools visit


Food Safety

Elliott Report a Significant Step Forward in Safeguarding Food Supply

September 13th, 2014
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haccp_logoThe final report of the Elliott Review into the Integrity and Assurance of Food Supply Networks was published September 4, 2014. Food fraud is the deliberate substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, ingredients or packaging and is considered by food safety experts at global public health organization NSF International to be a global issue that cannot be dealt with solely inside national borders. Effective implementation of the report’s recommendations will require industry and government coordination as well as expert support to protect consumers.

“As the Elliott report makes clear, criminal food fraud is a very serious problem in the international food supply chain, the total scale of which is unknown, but ranging from relatively minor ‘casual dishonesty’ to organized crime encouraged by huge financial rewards. Limited intelligence means that we simply do not know the exact extent of fraud. What we do know is that it can be a cause of major food safety risks which severely undermines consumer trust in the food industry,” said David Richardson, EMEA Food Division Vice President at NSF International, a global public health organization and leading food safety service provider operating in more than 155 countries.

Professor Chris Elliott of Queen’s University in Belfast was commissioned by the UK government to conduct the review in the wake of a major food fraud crisis in 2013 involving horsemeat found in beef products. In the report, Professor Elliott discusses issues impacting consumer confidence in the authenticity of food products, including any systemic failures with implications for food safety and public health, as well as makes recommendations for addressing such failures. His recommendations are based around eight key pillars:

  1. Consumers first – Industry, government and enforcement agencies should always put the needs of consumers above all other considerations. This means giving food safety and food crime absolute priority over other objectives.
  2. Zero tolerance – In sectors where margins are tight and the potential for fraud is high, even minor dishonesties must be discouraged and the response to major dishonesties deliberately punitive.
  3. Intelligence gathering – There needs to be shared investment between government and industry in intelligence gathering and sharing, although to ensure its effectiveness, all organizations must have regard to the sensitivities of the market.
  4. Laboratory services – Those involved with audit, inspection and enforcement must have access to resilient, sustainable laboratory services that use standardized, tested approaches.
  5. Audit – Industry and regulators must give weight to audit and assurance regimes, but also work to minimise duplication where possible. Industry should move to a modular form of auditing.
  6. Government support – Government support for the integrity and assurance of food supply networks must be kept specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (SMART).
  7. Leadership – Clear leadership and co-ordination of investigations and prosecutions is required and the public interest must be recognised in active enforcement and meaningful penalties for significant food crimes. A new Food Crime Unit, based on the Dutch model, should be created within the FSA and become the lead agency for food crime.
  8. Crisis management – When a serious incident occurs the necessary mechanisms are in place so that regulators and industry can deal with it effectively.

NSF International’s Opinion 

Richardson commented, “NSF International is supportive of all measures to improve food safety and levels of trust between consumers and the food industry. The Elliott report makes many sound recommendations, which if implemented effectively will provide a vastly superior coordinated approach between government and industry to tackling food fraud. The industry now needs expert support to translate these recommendations into practical strategies and systems to protect consumers as well as their own brands. NSF International has in place a comprehensive service package of consulting, training, audit and testing services to help companies globally tackle the risk of fraud effectively.”

NSF International was recently commissioned by the FSA to develop a risk assessment framework, which is discussed in NSF’s white paper “The ‘new’ phenomenon of criminal fraud in the food supply chain.” This framework works as an evidence- and risk-based diagnostic tool that helps to identify risk of fraud in the global food supply chain across different product categories.

Professor Elliott has drawn attention to a major problem that not only affects the UK but the entire global supply chain. “Food fraud does not respect national boundaries and that is a major reason why it is so difficult to track. Transparency, traceability and data sharing among government, industry and third-party organizations worldwide will become major themes in addressing global food fraud threats,” said David Edwards, NSF International food safety consultant and former director of NSF International’s Global Food Safety Division. “Organizations such as NSF International with global resources, technical expertise and cooperative relationships with both industry and government can play a crucial role in facilitating intelligence sharing and developing solutions.”

NSF International has thousands of inspectors and other technical resources on the ground as well as global laboratories and testing capabilities. By working with many international businesses and government agencies, NSF is ideally placed to collect and analyse data and provide advice that can help stamp out international fraud.

Source: Asia food Journal


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