Food fingerprinting is based on the detection of as many substances as possible by spectroscopic and/or spectrometric techniques followed by the statistical evaluation of the acquired data.
Depending on the analytical method and the statistical evaluation, it is possible to identify the compounds responsible e.g. for differentiation or classification.
To ensure compliance with legal regulations, the BfR uses methodologies such as stable isotope analysis.
It also develops analytical strategies, using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and traceability of contaminated or adulterated products is assisted by software it developed.
Food fingerprinting methods
BfR said due to the increasing need of valid, reliable strategies in official food control it develops and establishes analytical procedures, applicable for authentication.
“An example is the development of so called food fingerprinting methods,” a spokeswoman told FoodQualityNews.
“These applications are usually based on spectroscopic and spectrometric data providing the capability for a comprehensive characterization of the investigated matrices.
“The subsequent statistical multivariate data analysis enables a general identification of many deviations from the expected product composition.
“Besides the classical tests of authenticity of foods, a comprehensive analysis that also allows the detection of hazardous or safety-relevant manipulations and violations of the respective law e.g. with regard to non-authorized food additives or a prohibited use of technological processes is of urgent need in food control.”
BfR hosted the Food Law Enforcement Practitioners (FLEP) conference last month which had 50 experts discussing the latest developments in food analysis methods.
FLEP is an informal grouping of European food law enforcement practitioners representing the management of food control interests in Europe.
Last year, the forum met in Rome at Carabinieri NAS; this year, it was hosted by the BfR in Berlin.
The main purpose is to exchange information, learn and co-operate between European colleagues to develop mutual confidence and trust in resolving practical control problems.
Globlisation in the supply chain
Traceability is typically based on documentation systems used by companies allowing identification of batches.
However, food control also requires procedures enabling the verification of declarations and specifications -authenticity testing - on the basis of chemical analysis of the foods.
BfR said because of the increasing globalization of supply chains, consumers are more aware of the debate around authenticity of a product.
Also the development on high-throughput and hyphenated spectroscopic techniques in the last two decades could be one of the reasons food fraud gets more attention.
The agency said appearance, aroma, taste and mouth feeling are attributes, defining the value of a food and effecting the consumer's acceptance, even if only unconsciously.
Also there are other product criteria, including brand, labelling of ingredients and quantitative data, geographical origin, which are crucial in terms of the consumer's decision to buy.
Dr Helmut Tschiersky, president of the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL), said it is developing concepts to detect and prevent food fraud.
“Food adulteration - and hence fraud against consumers - pose new challenges to the food surveillance system.”