USP extends food fraud database capabilities

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Olive oil has been a common food fraud target. Picture: Istock
Olive oil has been a common food fraud target. Picture: Istock

Related tags Food fraud Food Supply chain management

The US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) has launched the second generation of its Food Fraud Database (FFD 2.0).

It said the goal is to provide brand protection, increase consumer trust and support regulations from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

New features allow users to identify historical trends and vulnerabilities through a customizable dashboard, which can include automatic alerts of new records of food fraud or economically-motivated adulteration (EMA) and automated analytics for ingredients of interest.

USP said it was aimed at industry to support companies to meet certification schemes but could also be useful to government and regulatory agencies.

The currently free version of the database will not be available after September 12 with the subscription fee model​ taking over.

Increasing attention

Karen Everstine, scientific liaison, US Pharmacopeia, said the first generation of the database in 2012 was a repository of information and didn’t have the analytics.

“We talked to users and stakeholders to make it more useful to them and took what we learned and made it bigger,” ​she told us.

“There is increasing attention on food fraud with GFSI requirements and FSMA requirements and more of a push to have food fraud vulnerability assessments in place.

“We are trying to make the process quicker and easier because for GFSI and FSMA you need to do something about food fraud and instead of doing your own search which can take hours or weeks, you have information at your fingertips in minutes and can incorporate it into a mitigation plan.”

Everstine said it can help put manufacturers' minds at ease when sourcing ingredients as problems don’t lead just to trouble with regulators but also a loss in brand trust.

“With the alert feature you go in and build groups of ingredients of interest, if you sign up then when new information is added to the system you get an alert. There are a range of user frequencies but it means you don’t have to go in every week or month to check,” ​she said.

“If you don’t know where to start, you can put in an ingredient and see ‘these have associated records, these do not’ and see if it has increased over the years.

“We have a team of analysts who search for information in media reports; regulation; scholarly literature and tag information in different ways for weight of evidence. They add ingredients when they come out and users can suggest ones to include.”

The update includes thousands of ingredients and related adulterants, incident reports, surveillance records and analytical methods from scientific literature, media publications, regulatory records, judicial records and trade associations worldwide.

Consumers today are more educated than ever, and manufacturers risk doing irreparable damage to their brands as a result of food fraud​,” said Todd Abraham of Mondelēz International and a member of USP’s Board of Trustees.

The Food Fraud Database 2.0 provides food manufacturers with the ability to look at past incidents of fraud and take proactive steps to protect their supply chains – thus protecting their reputation and ensuring consumer confidence in their products​.”

FSMA and GFSI put food fraud on radar

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requires manufacturers and retailers to identify and analyze potential hazards including those resulting from EMA as part of their food safety plans.

The FFD 2.0 provides hazards reports on specific adulterants, making it easier for manufacturers and retailers to identify ingredients with a known history of adulteration with potentially hazardous substances.

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) has similar requirements to conduct food fraud vulnerability assessments and develop control plans.

Jeffrey Moore, science director for the food program at USP, said smart mitigation of risks starts with reliable data.

“Substances used to adulterate food can include industrial dyes, plasticizers, allergens, or other substances not intended to be consumed by people​.”

He added the database is a first good step towards assessing hazards potentially present in specific food supply chains.

Jonathan W. DeVries, chair of USP’s Expert Committee on Food Ingredients, said data was informed by scientists and food fraud experts from academia, industry and regulatory agencies.

“The best way to increase your chances of preventing the next food fraud incident in your supply chain is to make use of the database and other tools USP’s Expert Committee has worked on to fight food fraud in a more holistic approach.

“These resources together offer manufacturers and retailers an arsenal of tools to protect their brand, comply with the regulations and increase public confidence.”

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

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