New test for detecting counterfeit food products

By Helen Glaberson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food Milk Chromatography

A Dutch university has developed an analysis to detect fraud or other irregularities in products such as meat and cheese, and is looking to partner with the industry and governments to develop further food tests.

The first peer-reviewed, validated test, developed by RIKILT, that verifies whether eggs are organic or not is already available. The food safety institute is part of Wageningen university in Holland.

The method works by reading a ‘fingerprint’ of components of the egg. The fingerprints of authentic organic products are compared to a wide selection of similar regular products and are recorded in a database. Such fingerprints are identified with the help of a separation technique called high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC).

The research, which was published this year in the journals such as Food Chemistry​, makes it possible to tell whether the makeup of a new product is closer to that of organic or regular products, said RIKILT.

The test is being used by bodies such as inspection and certification organisation Skal, Saskia van Ruth, product leader of the egg study, told

The test is also useful for non governmental organizations (NGO’s) such as animal welfare organizations and supermarkets, she said.

Ruth said the researchers are currently looking for government or industry partners interested in applying the principle or having a test specifically designed for their product.

An example she gave would be a large dairy company interested in a test to verify whether their milk is organic.

“We would then work with them to develop such a test,”​ she said.

The team is currently working on further developing these methods in order to identify other products, said Ruth.

RIKILT said the first results from methods used to identify organic milk, organic ham, PDO (protected designation of origin) cheeses, and the geographical origins of butter and olive oil have already been published and/or presented to the industry.

Sustainably-produced palm oil

Ruth said the team is starting to develop a test for sustainably-produced palm oil. The university is presenting posters and putting together initial ideas, but nothing has beens published to date.

“The results will take another six months to a year before we use the test in practice​,” she said.

However, Ruth said the researchers are actively looking for partners as, compared to other tests, the research into palm oil is in early development. Therefore the team is very interested in learning from producers about how such a test would work in practice

The university is also developing tests for wild as opposed to farmed fish, tomato origin and the authenticity of halal meat.

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1 comment


Posted by Valentine Dyall,

It sounds more than a little unlikely but until we see some actual hard and fast evidence, we cannot tell. When and where can we find such evidence?

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