New food fingerprinting to fight food fraud

By Laurence Gibbons

- Last updated on GMT

Better than CSI: it’s food forensics
Better than CSI: it’s food forensics
A new origin testing technology has been developed that will not only identify a product’s country of origin, but its precise region.

Food Forensics, a testing laboratory based on the Norwich Research Park, uses ‘stable isotope ratio analysis’ on food samples. This produces a ‘fingerprint’ with a unique pattern. To enable drilling down into regional origins, it has spent the last 12 months creating a database of British samples.

Track exactly 

“Not only can we tell if meat has come from Britain, we can go further and track exactly what part of the country it is from,”​ said Alison Johnson, director of Food Forensics. “We can see if a meat supposedly from Scotland is actually from the south west of England.”

Using this system, investigators could unearth false region of origin claims, she said. Johnson was “absolutely confident”​ it could protect manufacturers from becoming the victims of food fraud and would act as a deterrent to those looking to commit fraud. It would enable manufacturers and retailers to demonstrate due diligence and trustworthiness to consumers, she added.

‘Minority ruin trust for majority’

“While no one likes to think their supply chain is vulnerable, the horsemeat scandal has highlighted that the actions of a minority ruin trust for the majority,”​ said Johnson.

“Just like real fingerprints, these results cannot be falsified, so they are vastly more reliable than paperwork,”​ she said. “Accidents will happen, but if you have an early warning sign and can prove due diligence that is a huge benefit.”

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