Speaking exclusively to FoodQualityNews.com, Gerry Broski, senior director of marketing at Neogen Corporation, said the horse meat issue was unfortunate, but indicative of the current times.
“In the fact that as population grows and resources diminish, people are looking for opportunities to either increase their profit or to stretch their product out and they are doing this by adding things that, in the case of horse meat, are not necessarily harmful to people," Broski said at the Global Food Safety Conference in Barcelona.
"But it brings up the whole issue of economic adulteration and people want to be assured that when they buy something if it’s a food in a restaurant or if it’s a ready made meal or if it’s a raw meat that they are getting what they are paid for and in this case cheaper ingredients were substituted for more expensive ingredients."
Broski said substitution was happening on a global basis and cited a number of examples.
“We’ve heard of olive oil being adulterated with hazelnut oil to make it more profitable, in Canada, we’ve heard of maple syrup being adulterated with corn syrup so people are taking cheaper ingredients and [they] may not necessarily be hampering the safety of our products but certainly they are not giving people what they paid for.
“On the whole I think people are very upset about that, of course if people were getting sick and getting ill it would be much worse but this is a case of economic adulteration.”
Issues for food safety
The horse meat saga had proved that the industry had to expect the unexpected and Neogen was geared up to tackle future issues, said Broski. "We are pretty well prepared to address a lot of these issues because the technology is there. We have the foundations, which can be applied to many different tests as they come up.
"So initially we talked about horse meat, but we have tests for chicken, beef and other matrices, and the issues of economic adulteration and food safety are going to continue, they are going to grow.
"But the fact that we’re here and among a group of 800 people that are all concerned about food safety, you can rest assured that people are concerned about it, taking it very seriously and for the most part food is safe and you do get what you paid for.”
He said Neogen had 30-minute tube-based tests using antibodies that could detect minimum levels of 1% adulteration and could be used on the production line.
In the US Neogen was seeing a general increase in interest in its products, especially testing services, said Broski. It was known as an allergen-testing firm, but customers were enquiring about other tests, he added.
He explained the firm offered pathogen testing, including detection methods for Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia Coli (STEC), which are unique to meat.
“A lot of this is being driven by the Food Safety Modernization Act in the US, which talks about preventive controls and all this time we thought we were selling diagnostic tests and in reality, we actually are selling preventive controls because our tests can be used to support an allergen control program or a sanitation control program.”