12 January - 20 June 2016

Detecting food authenticity and integrity

A paper published in the journal Current Opinion in Food Science by a team of researchers from Universities of Manchester and Queens, Belfast, including Professor Chris Elliot who led the UK government's independent review of food systems following the 2013 Horsemeat scandal, has documented technologies that are being developed to enable the detection of food authenticity and integrity.

A paper published in the journal Current Opinion in Food Science by a team of researchers from Universities of Manchester and Queens, Belfast, including Professor Chris Elliot who led the UK government's independent review of food systems following the 2013 Horsemeat scandal, has documented technologies that are being developed to enable the detection of food authenticity and integrity. 

In March 2016 more than 10,000 tonnes and one million litres of hazardous fake food and drink were seized in operations across 57 countries in an INTERPOL-Europol coordinated initiative. Seizures ranged from nearly nine tonnes of counterfeit sugar contaminated with fertiliser to recovering more than 85 tonnes of olives which had been ‘painted’ with copper sulphate solutions. At a similar time, a report from the UK National Crime Unit was published which involved counterfeit and adulterated alcohol.  Also more recently an international food fraud case involving seven countries and the mislabelling of food was reported.  Ellis et al. authors of this current paper, note that these reports demonstrate that no country is immune from food fraud.

The paper discusses omics technologies, stating that molecular technologies are invaluable options for the detection of food authenticity.  DNA sequences can detect food adulterants and prove authenticity.  DNA-barcoding can be used for identification for “taxonomic discrimination”. However, this relies on the availability of reference sequence libraries.  The paper notes that DNA-barcoding is of “particular interest when it comes to authentication of seafood product” due to the wide range of species and loss of structure and visible characteristics during processing.  A study by Kim et al. used DNA-barcoding and stable isotope analysis for identification of Hairtail fish and shrimp and differentiate between natural and farmed shrimp.

DNA-based methodologies can be applied to a wide-range of food products.  This includes the use of real time PCR for the “relative quantification of horse DNA in raw meat mixtures” and encapsulated DNA in heat resistant and inert magnetic particles to identify chili adulteration, species specific differences in herbal medicines and tracing/tagging of edible oils. 

The scientists discuss proteomics, an emerging complementary methodology to DNA based approaches for food. An amino acid sequence just like the DNA sequence is species specific.  Several recent proteomics studies have examined the adulteration of meat products using this technique including the identification of “novel heat stable peptides.”

HPLC-MS has been used to detect horsemeat and pork in a range of muscle foods.  Multiple reaction monitoring can allow for the detection of 0.13% pork in halal beef.  More recently, Obana et al. used LC-MS/MS for speciation and quantification of 16 mammalian and 10 avian species of raw, cooked and mixed meat types. 

Ellis et al. also discuss metabolomics a “downstream of genomics and proteomics” and state there has been an increase in studies around this method over the last couple of years especially as metabolites are often essential for human nutrition.  Metabolomic studies include using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy for the determination of the country of origin of coffee.  Others have used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to authenticate the most expensive coffee and LC-MS based metabolic profiling and FTIR to authenticate herbs. 

In conclusion Ellis et al state that “the individual omics discussed here and their related approaches hold a great deal of promise for the detection of food authenticity and integrity.”  They note that reducing food fraud will result in less waste, decreases in energy use as well as greenhouse gas emission. 

RSSL offers a range of services which can help you confirm the authenticity of your ingredient or product:  commodity and speciality oils, species identification, basmati rice, GMO testing and genotyping. For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

share this article
RSSL endeavours to check the veracity of news stories cited in this free e-mail bulletin by referring to the primary source, but cannot be held responsible for inaccuracies in the articles so published. RSSL provides links to other World Wide Web sites as a convenience to users, but cannot be held responsible for the content or availability of these sites. This document may be copied and distributed provided the source is cited as RSSL's Food e-News and the information so distributed is not used for profit.

Previous editions

Load more editions

Make an Enquiry