While there are been minimal food safety risks to this point, it does raise concerns about traceability and even food defense. Certainly an exception to this was the melamine contamination of wheat gluten that was used in pet foods. In this case, the industrial chemical melamine was added to wheat gluten to increase the level of ‘detectable protein’.
Last month an advocacy group reported that up to 1/3 of seafood sold in restaurants may be mislabeled. One interesting example was that the fish species Escolar was being labeled as white tuna. Problem is that Escolar is the Ex-lax of the seafood world and can result in explosive diarrhea when eaten in large quantities.
Other products that are subject to food fraud include
- Honey – one of the largest items to be subject to fraud. There is a worldwide network that supplies honey. Cheaper honey from China is often mixed in other countries to escape being labeled “From China”. Problems with Chineese honey – one is that it has been found to contain antibiotics. In other cases, it was diluted. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/science/honey-laundering-the-sour-side-of-natures-golden-sweetener/article562759/
- Juice Concentrate (Orange and apple)
- Olive Oil
USP has a Food Fraud Database that links to numerous studies.
Food Fraud: Are Your Ingredients At Risk?
Wed, 03/06/2013 - 2:17pm
Lindsey Jahn, Associate Editor, Food Manufacturing
Food fraud is on the rise across the globe, and it is impacting all forms of products — from milk and olive oil to seafood and beef. While some cases of food fraud are due to the efforts of unscrupulous processors, some honest food companies are unknowingly producing items containing fraudulent ingredients.
Europe’s meat industry has been in crisis mode since Ireland announced that at least one-third of frozen “beef” burgers produced in the country contained traces — or sometimes much more than traces — of horsemeat. Since then, horsemeat has been detected in many European meat products, from Ikea’s signature Swedish meatballs to prepared meals produced by Nestle.
So far, no horsemeat has been detected in the U.S. food supply. But the U.S. food industry is no stranger to other types of food fraud. The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) maintains a Food Fraud Database which identifies cases of food fraud occurring in the U.S. The USP in January released its most recent update to the database, which added almost 800 new records of food fraud, increasing the total number of records published in the database by 60 percent.
The USP defines food fraud as a “collective term that encompasses the deliberate substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging, or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain.”
According to the latest update of the Food Fraud Database, some of the most commonly “faked” ingredients include the following:
§ Olive oil
§ Coffee and tea
§ Maple syrup
While it is relatively easy to identify cases of food fraud involving one-ingredient products, such as extra virgin olive oil or honey, finding fraudulent products with multiple ingredients can be a difficult task — especially when the manufacturer may not be aware that it is using a fake ingredient in its production process.
The USP database is designed to help food manufacturers ensure their products are both safe and high quality. “Ultimately, we hope the database can be used as a tool by food manufacturers, regulators, scientists and others worldwide to help achieve a safer food supply,” says Dr. Jeffrey Moore, senior scientific liaison for USP and the database’s creator and lead analyst.
Of particular concern in the U.S. is the growing issue of seafood fraud. Advocacy group Oceana recently released its latest report on seafood fraud in America. The report states that one-third of the 1,215 fish samples tested were mislabeled, according to FDA guidelines.
Oceana suggests that more traceability efforts are needed to ensure the authenticity of seafood, especially since the majority of fish consumed in the U.S. is imported. “We need to track our seafood from boat to plate so that consumers can be more confident that the fish they purchase is safe, legal and honestly labeled,” says Beth Lowell, campaign director for Oceana.
Regardless of what food manufacturers produce, it is imperative that they ensure the safety, quality and legality of their ingredients. Communicating with ingredient suppliers is of the utmost importance. Companies should obtain information about the ingredients they obtain from their suppliers, including the origin and makeup of the ingredient.
Traceability is also a viable option for processors, especially those utilizing fresh ingredients such as seafood, fruits and vegetables. May producers in the U.S. now offer both consumers and manufacturers the ability to trace their product “from field to fork.” Knowing the exact path a product has taken can help assure food companies and consumers that they are receiving a quality item.
As the U.S. food supply becomes increasingly complex, it is more important than ever for food manufacturers to take steps to ensure the integrity of their ingredients, in order to produce a safe, quality product for consumers.
One-third of seafood mislabeled, study finds
Feb 21, 2013 08:00 AM EST
The Washington Post
If you order tuna at a D.C. restaurant, chances are half the time you’ll be getting another, less expensive fish in its place. But those odds are better than if you had wanted snapper. Testers nationwide found that 87 percent of the time, restaurants and grocery stores were selling something else under that label.
As much as one-third of seafood sold in restaurants and groceries is fraudulently labeled, according to a report the advocacy group Oceana released Thursday. The group sampled 674 retail outlets in the District and 20 states between 2010 and 2012, often finding cheaper, farmed fish being sold in place of wild-caught ones.
Ninety-five percent of the sushi restaurants, 52 percent of other restaurants and 27 percent of grocery stores surveyed sold mislabeled seafood. While academics, consumer groups and media outlets in the United States and elsewhere have scrutinized fish labeling before and found major errors, Oceana’s effort is one of the largest seafood investigations to date.
In its study, Oceana did not mention the names of the food stores, restaurants and sushi houses it visited because the group cannot identify specifically where in the distribution chain the fraud occurred. If you ask those in the fish business, they likewise have different ideas on where the mislabeling begins.
Bob Kinkead, the veteran chef and restaurateur behind such seafood emporiums as the recently shuttered Kinkead’s, said the deception can occur anywhere along the distribution chain but notes that some suppliers prey on ignorant chefs. “I think chefs are uninformed” on species of fish, said Kinkead, who recently opened Ancora in the Watergate. “It’s not dishonesty. It’s carelessness.”
Darren Lee Norris, co-owner of Kushi Izakaya & Sushi near Mount Vernon Square, however, pointed a finger directly at restaurateurs. “I think it comes down to a restaurant or chef who’s trying to buy something cheaper and jazz it up and call it something else.”
The technology to conduct species tests has become relatively inexpensive and widely available in recent years, said Prof. Mahmood Shivji of Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who has conducted genetic testing on fish species since 2007 and advised Oceana on its study.
Although agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have genetics laboratories, Shivji said, “they are really bogged down. They don’t have enough personnel, the workload is huge and they don’t have the money” to conduct routine tests.
The Food and Drug Administration tests less than 1 percent of seafood sold in the United States for fraud, according to a 2009 Government Accountability Office report.
Steven Wilson of NOAA’s seafood inspection program, said he thinks the rate of species substitution “is very low,” averaging less than 5 percent.
He said purveyors are much more likely to inflate the weight of the seafood they’re selling, by adding water. Inspectors have found inaccurate weight counts 40 percent of the time, Wilson said.
Still, Wilson said that fraud was more likely to occur with certain high-value species, including red snapper and grouper. Restaurants and supermarkets frequently substituted tilapia and other cheap species in the place of red snapper, Oceana found.
And most of the time sushi restaurants were passing off escolar as “white tuna,” which is technically not even a fish but a descriptive name for albacore tuna sold in a can. When consumed in large quantities, escolar can cause diarrhea. Though they don’t condone the mislabeling, some in the fish business say there’s a reason escolar frequently gets called “white tuna” in restaurants and sushi houses.
“I feel that white tuna has been used as a market name for escolar in cookbooks and on menus for decades,” noted John Rorapaugh, director of sustainability and sales with the Washington, D.C.-based supplier ProFish. “In this case, the name substitution is for familiarity sake and not to blatantly deceive the public — unlike the case of substituting a less expensive fish for snapper for financial gain.”
Writing a sushi menu is tricky business, said Kaz Okochi, chef and owner of Kaz Sushi Bistro in downtown Washington. With the right marketing name, a piece of fish can “start selling overnight,” Okochi said. He brings up the case of the Patagonian toothfish, which few diners ate until it was given the market name of Chilean sea bass, which soon became overfished. The fish Okochi buys from Japan sometimes come with names unfamiliar to American diners. So he has historically devised his own menu names.
“If it’s not really named in the United States,” Okochi said, “I think it’s okay to name it.”
Okochi and others say there is a difference between such a marketing practice, which typically involves a pricey piece of fish in the first place, and the outright fraud of substituting a cheap fillet of tilapia for the expensive red snapper. Some chefs believe that it’s the cheaper strip-mall sushi houses that perpetuate the vast majority of the fraud, in large part because they must rely on fish sales to support the business rather than a bar program or some other revenue streams inside the restaurant.
Some are pushing for reforms that would make it harder for chefs, restaurateurs and distributors to mislead the public. Some government officials and companies are pushing for increased traceability, where each fish receives an ID number that is carried over with each invoice, allowing buyers and customers to see where it is caught by logging onto a Web site.
Steve Vilnit, fisheries marketing director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said he has been talking with the state’s fishermen about whether they would adopt such a system.
“Chefs are willing to pay a little more for that level of detail,” Vilnit said, adding the idea has sparked mixed reactions. “Some are very enthusiastic; others just want to do status quo. We’ll probably start out working with a small group of guys and expand it from there.”
Over at ProFish, they’re not waiting on the government to launch a traceability program. The company recently hired a firm to start conducting DNA tests as part of ProFish’s three-year-old FishPrint traceability program. ProFish’s goal is to, within a month, launch a Web-based database so buyers can see for certain what kind of fish they’re buying; the company will start with the top 20 species, such as salmon, catfish and rockfish. “We don’t want to go too big too fast,” said Rorapaugh. “You want to make sure you work out all the kinks.”
Such programs could help with assessing fish stocks. While many retail outlets swapped out depleted species for more plentiful ones, Oceana’s Stop Seafood Fraud campaign director, Beth Lowell, warned this gave Americans a false impression of how these stocks are doing. The Gulf of Mexico red snapper population will not reach healthy levels until 2032, according to NOAA, while red snapper in the South Atlantic won’t be rebuilt until 2047.
“If you see red snapper on every fish counter, on every menu and in every sushi restaurant, it’s hard for both managers and average consumers to understand the long road to recovery that red snapper’s on,” Lowell said.
New research reveals food ingredients most prone to fraudulent economically motivated adulteration
Olive oil, milk and honey represent some of the most vulnerable ingredients
Rockville, Md., April 5, 2012 — In new research published in the April Journal of Food Science, analyses of the first known public database compiling reports on food fraud and economically motivated adulteration in food highlight the most fraud-prone ingredients in the food supply; analytical detection methods; and the type of fraud reported. Based on a review of records from scholarly journals, the top seven adulterated ingredients in the database are olive oil, milk, honey, saffron, orange juice, coffee, and apple juice.
The database was created by the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), a nonprofit scientific organization that develops standards to help ensure the identity, quality and purity of food ingredients, dietary supplements and pharmaceuticals. USP's food ingredient standards are published in the Food Chemicals Codex (FCC) compendium. The new database provides baseline information to assist interested parties in assessing the risks of specific products. It includes a total of 1,305 records for food fraud based on a total of 660 scholarly, media and other publicly available reports. Records are divided by scholarly research (1,054 records) and media reports (251 records). Researchers are Drs. Jeffrey C. Moore (lead author) and Markus Lipp of USP, and Dr. John Spink of Michigan State University.
Food fraud was recently defined in a report commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security and funded by the National Center for Food Protection and Defense (University of Minnesota) as a collective term that encompasses the deliberate substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging, or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain. A more specific type of fraud, intentional or economically motivated adulteration of food ingredients has been defined by USP's Expert Panel on Food Ingredient Intentional Adulterants as the fraudulent addition of nonauthentic substances or removal or replacement of authentic substances without the purchaser's knowledge for economic gain of the seller.
"This database is a critical step in protecting consumers," said Dr. Spink. "Food fraud and economically motivated adulteration have not received the warranted attention given the potential danger they present. We recently defined these terms [see the Journal of Food Science, November 2011] and now we are defining the scope and scale. As many do not believe a concept or risk exists if it does not appear in a scholarly journal, we believe that publication of this paper in the Journal of Food Science will allow us to advance the science of food fraud prevention."
While traditionally considered primarily an economic issue and less a consumer safety threat, authors of the paper, Development and Application of a Database of Food Ingredient Fraud and Economically Motivated Adulteration from 1980 to 2010, defined empirically that in some ways food fraud may be more risky than traditional threats to the food supply. The adulterants used in these activities often are unconventional and designed to avoid detection through routine analyses. Melamine, for example, was considered neither a potential contaminant nor an adulterant in the food supply before the episodes of adulteration of pet food in 2007 and infant formula and other milk products in 2008 (with tainted products still appearing sporadically today, principally in China). Although, as records from this database indicate, melamine was used as an adulterant to mimic protein as early as 1979; however, this remained virtually unknown until 2007. Hence, testing for melamine was not included in routine quality assurance or quality control analyses. Additionally, current food protection systems are not designed to look for the nearly infinite number of potential adulterants that may show up in the food supply.
"Food ingredients and additives present a unique risk because they are used in so many food products and often do not have visual or functional properties that enable easy discrimination from other similar ingredients or adulterants throughout the supply chain," the paper states. Glycerin, for example, is a sweet, clear, colorless liquid that is difficult to differentiate by sight or smell from other sweet, clear, colorless liquid syrups—including toxic diethylene glycol, which in the past has been substituted for glycerin with deadly consequences. Diethylene glycol has been fraudulently added to wines, and also used as an adulterant of glycerin used in pharmaceuticals.
In addition to identifying specific food ingredients and food categories vulnerable to adulteration, the researchers also analyzed the types of analytical detection methods used to discover the fraud, as well as the type of fraud using three categories: replacement, addition or removal. The authors found 95 percent of records involved replacement—an authentic material replaced partially or completely by another, less expensive substitute. An example is the partial substitution of olive oil with hazelnut oil. Other examples include potentially harmful substitution of toxic Japanese star anise for Chinese star anise (a common spice used in foods), and the partial replacement of low-quality spices with lead tetraoxide or lead chromate to imitate the color of higher-quality spices.
Utility of Database
The database provides information that can be useful in evaluating current and emerging risks for food fraud. In addition to providing a baseline understanding of the vulnerability of individual ingredients, the database offers information about potential adulterants that could reappear in the supply chain for particular ingredients. For example, records in the database regarding melamine as an adulterant for high-protein-content ingredients date back to 1979.
Speaking to that example, the paper notes, "Perhaps if this information had been readily available to risk assessors before the 2007 and 2008 incidents of melamine adulteration and wheat gluten and milk powders, it could have helped risk assessors anticipate these adulteration possibilities." This information also could have stimulated research aimed at developing new methods to measure protein content, which could signal adulteration with melamine and other unexpected constituents—an effort that has only recently gained substantial interest.
Another practical application of the database involves analytical testing strategies to detect food fraud. A commonly used strategy at present is testing for the absence of specific adulterants—an approach that excels at detecting known adulterants at very low levels but has the critical limitation of not necessarily being able to detect unknown adulterants. An alternative strategy is compendial testing (via FCC and other sources) for the identity, authenticity and purity of a food ingredient (i.e., what should be present and in what quantity instead of what should not be present). While this testing may not always be capable of detecting adulterants at trace levels, it is capable of detecting both known and unknown adulterants.
"Well-designed compendial testing approaches can be very powerful tool for guarding against food fraud," said Dr. Moore. "Their potential to detect both unknown and known adulterants is a significant benefit in an environment where no one knows and is worried about what harmful adulterant criminals will use to create the next generation of fake food ingredients."