Monthly summary of articles on food fraud and adulteration - May, 2021. Food fraud cases: honey, royal jelly, herbs, spices, fish, fish products...
Food Fraud Databases
In the Commission:
EU Wine DB
Wine is a premier agricultural product of the EU and exported worldwide. It is crucial to keep up reputation of EU wine and to minimise malpractices, mainly sugaring and watering, that may undermine the position of EU wine on the internal and international markets.
The activities of the JRC in support of the EU wine legislation started with the establishment of the EU wine databank in 1991, followed by the creation of the European Office for Wine, Alcohol and Spirit Drinks (BEVABS) in 1993. It has played a fundamental role in helping the EU Member States to develop the scientific and technical competences needed to carry out isotopic analysis of wine.
The wine reform in 2008 has confirmed the importance of EU quality wines linked to their geographical origin and varietal identification. Risk of fraud related to origin/variety exists; consequently, the remit of BEVABS was extended to cover those areas. In 2013, BEVABS became the European Reference Centre for Control in the Wine Sector to take into account the new scope.
The European Wine Databank (EU Wine DB) contains data on the isotopic composition of authentic wines collected from all wine producing regions across the EU over many years. It is an important tool to detect the undeclared addition of sugar before fermentation to increase alcoholic strength and addition of water. The data can also be used to assess the correctness of geographical indications.
For more details about the access to the data in Wine Databank, please look in EU Regulation Number 2018/274, Art. 28, section “Communication of information contained in the analytical databank.
The Privacy Statement of Wine Databank and details about the Data Protection Record of Wine Databank can be found in DPR-EC-02706 record in Register of the Data Protection Officer (DPO) of the European Commission.
The Food Authenticity Knowledge Base (FAKB) is an information resource on food authenticity. This database is the main aim of Work Package 2 of Food Integrity Project, which is to build a comprehensive Knowledge Base linking each food product and its potential fraud or integrity issues to appropriate analytical strategies that can be used for food fraud detection or authenticity testing. The output is a Web-based tool for use by industry and regulatory authorities to identify, easily and rapidly, potential threats to a given food product or ingredient and the existing solutions. The Knowledge Base will contain a wealth of information including the type, frequency, and impact of the fraudulent practice, the analytical methods available, their use, cost and performance criteria, and the availability of reference data with links to literature and open-access databases.
The high price of olive oil, the distinctive sensory profile, and its reputation as a healthy source of dietary fats make olive oil a target for fraud, i.e. adulteration or illegal blending with other vegetable oils or deliberate mislabelling of less expensive classes of olive oil (OO). As a result, olive oil adulteration for the purpose of financial gain has become one of the biggest sources of agricultural fraud in the EU. This, as well as the enlarged competitiveness, highlights the need to update and harmonize analytical methods for assuring quality and authenticity of OO. That's why, in 2016, EU H2020 OLEUM project started and has as overall objective to guarantee OO quality and authenticity through three strategic actions:
1. Develop new and/or improved analytical methods.
2. Establish an online, integrated database, the OLEUM Databank (Oleum DB).
3. Promote the OLEUM Network, a worldwide community of OO sector stakeholders.
In 2015 the European Commission organised an EU coordinated control plan to assess the prevalence on the market of honey adulterated with sugars and honeys mislabelled with regard to their botanical source or geographical origin.
All 28 EU countries plus Norway and Switzerland participated in the plan. They collected over 2000 samples of honey at all stages of the supply chain. All this data together with the results from the analysis are stored in Honey Databank (Honey DB)
Please see the JRC's final report with a full summary of the results and recommendations.
More information about the project can be found here.
In 2015, the European Commission organised a control plan coordinated at European Union level to assess the prevalence on the market of white fish mislabelled with regard to its declared species. The plan was part of the Commission follow-up of the horse meat crisis in 2013, where systematic checks to assess the extent of possible fraudulent activity in a certain sector, was one of the actions. Fishery and aquaculture products were identified by the Commission and the EU countries' experts as a possible high risk commodity for species substitution. More information can be found here.
In 2013 official controls carried out in a number of the EU countries showed that certain pre-packaged products contained horse meat which was not declared in the list of ingredients. The European Commission together with the EU countries competent authorities worked closely to identify the origin and the extent of the problem. More information can be found here.
Outside the Commission:
Decernis’ Food Fraud Database 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. FFD is available through an annual subscription. More information can be found here.
FADB-China (a molecular level food adulteration database) is a food adulteration Database based on molecular fingerprints and structural similarity prediction expansion. It was created based on a collection of 961 cases of food adulteration between 1998 and 2019 from the literature reports and announcements released by the Chinese government. Critical molecules were manually annotated in food adulteration substances as determined by food chemists, to build the first food adulteration database in China. This database seems to be also the first molecular-level food adulteration database worldwide. Additionally, they propose an in silico method for predicting potentially illegal food additives on the basis of molecular fingerprints and similarity algorithms. Using this algorithm, they claim that predict 1,919 chemicals that may be illegally added to food; these predictions can effectively assist in the discovery and prevention of emerging food adulteration. More information can be found here.
Eurofins provide an authenticity testing toolbox available to analytical laboratories with a focus on NMR profiling and database. Major advantages of the technique are its wide application field, the ability to ‘look below the surface’ and creating a holistic adulteration coverage. Examples for the wide application area of NMR profiling to detect fraudulent manipulation are honey, coffee, spices, oils and fats, wine, fruit juices, and dairy products. Eurofins holds flexible ISO 17025 accredited for a number of matrices and is open to share validation files under a Non-Disclosure Agreement with interested clients. Extensive reference databases are an indispensable pre-requisite to interpret the results of NMR profiling and creating them is a resource intensive process. Therefore, databank proprietors protect their intellectual property by offering access on a fee-for-service basis. However, limited data sharing with authorised experts, within strict confidentially agreements, is seen as an option.
More information about their services can be found on their website.
Bruker BioSpin GmbH provides NMR based tools for food fraud detection and database, which are used by industry, service providers as well as public control laboratories. Their FoodScreener concept it to offer modules for a number of priority commodities such as honey, wine, fruit juice, where already standard operating procedures (SOPs) for executing testing, reference databases and statistical models for sample classification exist. Honey profiling by NMR is an example for explaining the different features (non-target analysis, quantitative targeted analysis, validation) of the approach. SOPs for sample preparation and measurement to ensure data reproducibility, centralised reference databases and transparency about purity criteria used for assessing samples are seen as the main elements to create confidence in the provided service. More information abou their services can be found of their website.
SGF International is an independent, non-profit industrial self‐control body, doing audits, analytical verification and enforcement of corrective measures along the supply chain to ensure the authenticity of fruit 6 juices. SGF curates a database of authentic juice samples, which are taken by trained SGF auditors during audits in all major juice producing countries (production line, stock, retained samples). Those samples are profiled by NMR and checked against the European Fruit Juice Association (AIJN) Code of Practice. Providing authentic samples and sharing of compositional data of fruit juices could be envisaged to support official control laboratories to verify authenticity of fruit juices
Resources in assistance to the fight against food frauds
In the Commission:
The Food Adulteration Incidents Registry (FAIR) is a compilation of historical and current events involving economically motivated and intentional adulteration of foods on a global scale. Incidents which occurred more than 5 years ago are available for free. More information can be found here.
Medical Information Systems (MEDISYS) is a media monitoring system providing event-based surveillance to rapidly identify potential public health threats using information from media reports. The system displays only those articles with interest to public health (e. g. diseases, plant pests, psychoactive substances), analyses news reports and warns users with automatically generated alerts. The information processed by MEDISYS is derived from the Europe Media Monitor (EMM) developed by the JRC. More information can be found here.
The Rapic Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) portal features an interactive searchable online database with information about food safety incidents. It gives public access to summary information about the most recently transmitted RASFF notifications as well as the ability to search for information on any notification issued in the past. More details can be found here: https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/rasff_en
Outside the Commission:
Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is working on a nationally funded research project (FoodAuthent), whose main outcome will be an developed open source IT tool for managing food authenticity data (fAuthent system). The fAuthent system comprises of modules for data management, data analytics, data exchange and data protection. The tool can be used for: product protection (verification of the authenticity of a food product by using reference data provided by the manufacturer), official control laboratories (classification models built on chemical fingerprints), and documenting the control frequency for a particular product or product group to help designing appropriate sampling plans.
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