As if fish identity swapping wasn’t concerning enough, new research published in the Journal of Food Science has identified the top seven foods with commonly altered ingredients as olive oil, milk, honey, saffron, orange juice, coffee, and apple juice, proving food fraud is alive and well; and unfortunately, flourishing.
In light of growing concerns regarding food safety, the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) has compiled a public database with reports on food fraud and economically-motivated adulteration of food, which is the first of its kind. Researchers behind the database say getting this information published was key in giving the study credibility so that food fraud can become a more important and valid public concern.
The database provides information necessary to properly assess the risks of certain products, with a list of 1,305 records of food fraud instances from 66 scholarly, media and other public reports. The database also includes potential adulterants – or substances that corrupt, debase, or make impure by the addition of a foreign substance – that could reappear in the supply chain for particular ingredients, as well as analytical testing strategies to detect food fraud.
With more reports of food fraud coming out, the Department of Homeland Security has officially defined the term as the “deliberate substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging, or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain.”
Dr. John Spink, one of the researchers behind the study, said the database is a “critical step in protecting consumers. Food fraud and economically-motivated adulteration have not received the warranted attention given the potential danger they present. Many do not believe a concept or risk exists…we believe that publication of this paper…will allow us to advance the science of food fraud prevention.”
One if the biggest hopes researchers have for the database is that it will raise awareness about dangerous ingredients that already being added to our foods. One example of this is glycerin, a sweet, clear, colorless liquid that can be difficult to identify and easy to swap out with other substances. One such substance is toxic diethylene glycol, which has been substituted for glycerin in wine with deadly consequences.
Dr. Jeffrey Moore, one of the other researchers, stands behind the testing approaches outlined in the database, saying they can be a powerful tool for guarding against food fraud. “Their potential to detect both known and unknown adulterants is a significant benefit in an environment where no one knows and is worried about what harmful adulterant criminals will use to create the next generation of fake food ingredients.”