Dispatches from RAFA 2017, Prague

Analytical methods only part of solution to detect and prevent food fraud

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

FoodQualityNews attended RAFA in Prague as a media partner
FoodQualityNews attended RAFA in Prague as a media partner

Related tags Beef Spectroscopy Pork

Analytical techniques are only part of the solution when it comes to food fraud, according to a Nofima scientist.

Petter Olsen told RAFA attendees that analytical methods are valuable but it is unlikely they can detect and prevent food fraud alone.

He added economists, supply chain and market analysts, computer scientists and legal experts also need to be involved.

The ‘Golden Hammer’ principle

Rafa 3

Olsen said food fraud fits into the ‘golden hammer’ principle due to pre-existing investment in methods, instruments and skillsets leading people to think it is the best tool for other purposes.

While analytical methods can detect adulteration and tampering they do not or only partly work for volume weight, batch/lot number, halal, kosher or organic production.

Mapping of supply chains with input-output analysis and mass balance accounting can help identify fraud on an aggregate level.

Nofima has investigated the captured fish and wine chain due to mandatory data recording in regulations as part of the FoodIntegrity and EU-China Safe projects.

It is developing a database as part of the Food Authenticity Research Network (FARNHub) that will be available next year.

Olsen added Blockchain has huge potential but getting accurate data into it is the challenge with the physical supply chain.

The eighth symposium on Recent Advances in Food Analysis (RAFA​​) was organised by The University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague and RIKILT, Wageningen University & Research (The Netherlands).

Oregano adulteration follow-up

Pamela Galvin-King ​of Queen’s University Belfast presented on the detection of economically motivated adulteration in the herb and spice industry.

Rapid screening techniques to detect adulteration in sage, paprika and garlic are being developed using spectroscopic techniques such as Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) and Near Infra-Red (NIR) combined with chemometric modelling.

Raw spectral data of sage samples along with possible known adulterants olive, hazelnut and myrtle leaves, sumac, cistus, sandalwood, strawberry tree leaves and phlomis were collected.

Spectral data from paprika and bulking product, spent paprika were obtained. Garlic, along with possible white powder adulterants, talk, maltodextrin and cornstarch were also analysed on spectroscopic techniques.

Chemometrics were applied to convert spectroscopic data into qualitative models using algorithms such as orthogonal partial least squares discriminant analysis (OPLS-DA).

Emanuele Sangiorgi​ said it was important to have analytical methods to verify palm oil free as all food containing palm oil sold in Europe must be labelled.

The presentation looked at GC and HPLC and the Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART-MS) approach.

Different mixtures of sunflower and rapeseed oil with palm oil were used to determine a limit of detection (LOD) of palm oil addition.

The DART method detected addition of palm oil and tocopherols and tocotrienols determination is a confirmatory analysis.

Focus on organic meat and honey


Erwan Engel​ presented work from the SOMEAT project looking at the safety of organic meat.

Environmental contaminants (17 PCDD/F, 18 PCBs, 3 HBCD isomers, six mycotoxins and six inorganic compounds with chemical residues from production inputs (75 antimicrobials, 10 coccidiostats and 121 pesticides) were measured by five French NRLS.

Researchers said contamination levels below regulatory limits in conventional and organic raw meat from bovine, porcine and poultry.

They found more PCDD, PCDFs and PCBs in organic chicken meat versus conventional and put this down to organic specifications such as slaughtering age of the animal and outdoor run meaning higher exposure to environmental micro pollutants.

More PCBs were found in organic pork meat versus conventional, more PCDD/Fs and PCBs in organic beef meat than conventional and more HBCD in organic chicken meat and organic pork meat.

Engel added the next question was around consequences of chronic exposure to such contaminants.

Kristin Recklies ​presented on honeydew honey analysis. It has a dark colour and spicy taste and commands a higher price.

Traditional microscopy pollen analysis fails due to the missing pollen.

The BoogIH (Botanical, zoological and geographical identification of honeydew honey) project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and includes Intertek.

The method determines polar, nonpolar and charged compounds followed by chromatographic analysis using HPLC-ELSD for sugar analysis, UHPLC-PDA-MS/MS for phenolics and other hydrophobic compounds and HPLC-PDA-MS/MS for amino acids and other nitrogen-containing substances of honey.

In a vendor seminar, SPEX Europe​ highlighted the importance of certified reference materials (CRMs) and sample preparation in food integrity and safety.

The firm said sample preparation can be a ‘neglected art’ that can impact results.

It covered validation of analytical methods, calibration of instruments and reference materials.

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