Institute of Food Science & Technology
The Voice of the Food Profession
This information statement has been prepared by; Helen H. Grundy, Adrian J. Charlton and Simon D. Kelly, in cooperation with IFST’s Scientific Committee.
The recent horse meat scandal has highlighted the need to have the scientific means to check the components of our foods. As our population grows, increasing amounts of food are produced in the UK and also imported from overseas. The ingredients of an individual food product may be sourced from a single farm or from a wide range of producers and manufacturers worldwide. The authenticity and origin of these ingredients must be labelled so that this information can be included on the food label of the final product, thus creating a ‘paper trail’ which follows ingredients as they are exported around the globe. However, as highlighted by the horse meat scandal, there is room for error or intentional adulteration of ingredients during this process. In order to protect consumer interests and public health, in addition to combating the growing problems of food fraud and adulteration, scientific expertise and technologies are constantly being developed and advanced to test the authenticity of foods and feeds.
Such methods, using the latest developments in DNA fingerprinting techniques, chromatography and mass spectrometry, have been applied during recent high profile cases of food fraud and adulteration reported in the media. Examples are the inclusion of illegal Sudan dyes in foods and food ingredients, the addition of bovine material to chicken fillets, the counterfeiting of popular wines and species determination of products of animal origin.
Adulteration can occur for a variety of reasons, often linked to financial gain. Increases in profitability may be achieved by adulterating to improve the perceived quality of products, mimic an established brand, reduce manufacturing costs or for product extension purposes.
Analytical approaches to screen for these recent food fraud cases are discussed below, focussing on methods involving DNA analysis, mass spectrometry and spectroscopy. These techniques include targeted approaches when the analyte of interest is known and specifically screened for, non-targeted approaches, isotopic measurements and ‘omics’ technologies including metabolomics and proteomics.
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