New tests aim to combat food fraud

By John Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food fraud Supply chain management

Food fraud is costing the UK food supply chain huge sums each year, despite the existence of a number of scientific tests that detect fraudulent products, according to advisory group FoodChain Europe.

The Food Standards Agency says it does not believe that food fraud is a significant problem in the UK. Nevertheless, it says it takes the issue seriously and is working with local authorities and enforcement bodies such as Trading Standards to stamp it out.

It has also worked closely with others to develop new tests to detect the authenticity of a range of foods. Likewise, Campden BRI has investigated new authenticity tests. But, the real answer to beating food fraud is to have good supply-chain management regimes in place, said FoodChain Europe.

The recent explosion at a counterfeit vodka factory in Boston, Lincolnshire, in which five men died, has highlighted the danger of food fraud in the UK, claimed FoodChain Europe. And it quoted a 2008 survey by Which?, which found that some 10% of the food we buy is not what it seems, costing us £7bn. More recently, says FoodChain Europe, a survey found that 7% of processed cod products sold in the UK were mislabelled.

According to Jerry Houseago, business development director at FoodChain Europe, lab techniques such as polymerase chain reaction can be used to amplify a few bits of DNA into samples big enough to examine the genes and certify the origin of the foodstuff. Techniques can now also identify the species of animal-based foods.

"A newer technique is stable isotope testing,"​ said Houseago. "You are what you eat and this technique identifies the place of origin of an animal from what it has eaten. It will ensure that your piece of English lamb really is English lamb."

But prevention is better than cure, or testing, believes Houseago. "It is far better to look at your supply chain management systems, particularly if you have a very long supply chain."

FoodChain Europe is hosting the Food Fraud and Authenticity Conference in Birmingham on November 1. It will cover the legal framework surrounding food fraud; the National Food Fraud database; the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' food authenticity monitoring programme; and ways in which authenticity can be monitored and controlled through isotope testing.


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