Food Fraud Is Happening All Around Us


Dr. Neil Sharma, Head of Research and Product Development at InstantLabs, argues in an interesting post on that it is by improving testing accuracy and frequency that we can help to stamp it out…

« Food fraud can take many forms, including mislabelling or counterfeit branding.  But it is unfortunately becoming more widespread, especially in the protein segment to see product substitutions, where a cheaper species of meat or fish is passed off as a more expensive one, or product adulterations, where something, typically a cheaper ingredient, is mixed into the food (e.g., horse meat mixed into beef) to lower the cost and increase its volume.  

Food Fraud

In the past few years there have been hundreds of public reports of fraud with horse meat being added to beef, honey mixed with corn syrup, extra virgin olive oil being diluted with lower quality oils such as soybean or sunflower oil, and many others.  

And it’s not just limited to human foods.  The literature shows that up to 40% of pet food is either mislabelled or contains ingredients not listed on the package.

The Motivation Is Money

It’s simple – one can fraudulently make more money by diluting products with cheaper ingredients or supplementing expensive meats or seafoods with cheaper, low quality species.

In the case of the 2008 incident where Melamine was found in powdered milk from China, for instance, the process was complicated.  First, the powdered milk was diluted to increase its volume.  But this dilution lowers the protein content of the milk and routine product testing for protein was a risk to expose their fraud.  Melamine, a toxic chemical used in the production of certain plastic resins, was added which adds nitrogen to the milk to interfere with the tests by making the milk powder appear to have a higher protein content. So, the schemes are not only clearly deliberate, but can be highly sophisticated.


But Money Is Not All…  

It also threatens the livelihood of legitimate farmers, fishermen and other producers.  People with allergies who unknowingly eat substituted products could suffer a life-threatening allergic reaction, such as if olive oil is diluted with peanut oil. In the case of the 2008 melamine incident, more than 50,000 hospitalisations were reported and six deaths.  

Pork contamination in food sold as Halal or Kosher can cause someone to unknowingly violate their religious beliefs.  And low cost substituted products can be dumped on a market making it impossible for honest producers to compete.  And, because the supply chain for our food is becoming increasingly global, there are many places from the farm or fisherman to the restaurant where substitution can be made making the problem even more difficult to detect and control. 

And Detection Of Food Fraud Is Possible

Genetic testing using techniques like Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology to “read” the DNA contained in a sample in a laboratory is commonplace in medical laboratories.  These techniques, however, can also be used to detect food fraud and substitution and are particularly effective in the protein sector ».

As Dr. Neil Sharma says, « the criminals who are committing food fraud can’t escape science and a comprehensive testing program is a fundamental part of any successful program ». 

[Source :]

Unisensor offers rapid testing solutions to fight food fraud, and in particular, we provide rapid assays detecting Melamine, Extraneous Cow Milk, and Extraneous Goat Milk adulteration, in milk samples.

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