Europe’s Food Fraud Network (FFN) recorded 108 cases of cross-border food chain issues in 2015, an increase of more than 300% on 2013.

Food adulteration and contamination, accidental or intentional, has never been acceptable, but in 21st century food processing and production it is now identifiable and preventable. The FFN, established following the horsemeat scandal of 2013, is a pan-European mechanism to ensure the rapid exchange of information between national authorities and the Commission in cases of suspected fraudulent practices.

Exchanges In More Detail

In 2015, alleged violations were mostly related to labeling non-compliance (mostly with regard to ingredient mislabeling), suspicion of illegal export of animal by-products (ABPs), and prohibited treatments and/or processes applied to certain foodstuffs (e.g. addition of synthetic glycerol to wine).

The majority of exchanges that took place in the Network in 2015 concerned ABPs, followed by exchanges on fish and fish products. Importantly, however, statistical conclusions related to potential “food fraud” cases in Europe cannot be drawn from this data, given that Member States may also exchange information outside of the FFN and that cases which do not have a cross-border dimension, i.e. which occur at purely national level, are not exchanged via the Network.

Food Safety Schemes

Product supply chains employ a variety of quality, safety and food safety schemes to ensure the policies and processes are in place to source and ensure incoming raw ingredients are of the desired product and quality.

Secure, Instant Access To Product Information

Quick and easy access to information is essential for effective product management. SGS eVision lets you capture all the technical and legal information relating to a product. This online tool allows access to real time information in an intuitive, yet secure manner, so users can ensure that their products meet relevant industry regulations and their own quality standards. Subsequent food sample testing verifies the success of these schemes.

New Technology Tackles Food Fraud And Supports Accurate Labeling

The presence of unexpected ingredients can be a result of deliberate contamination (fraud), a genuine mistake, a lack of training in identifying raw materials, insufficient control in the supply chain or documentation checks.

The food industry loses some $10-15 billion annually to fraud. Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) DNA analysis is the newest, and most powerful, tool in the food industry’s battle to protect operations, customers and consumers, and to eliminate food fraud. Not only can this type of testing be used to confirm species authenticity and drive improvements in traceability, it also has the added benefit of being able to ascertain species, as required for food labels.

NGS DNA diagnostics can identify the biological content of a food sample, processed or unprocessed, a wide variety of foods including:

  • Meat
  • Plants
  • Seafood
  • Mushrooms

Other popular techniques include:

  • ELISA: a very useful and quick ‘targeted’ technique, although it has some drawbacks, such as interference from some matrices, cross reactivity and potential impacts from cooking or heating
  • PCR: an effective tool, but also uses a ‘targeted’ approach. This means you set out to look for a named species, for example, donkey, horse, goat and pig. However, if that sample contains duck, reindeer, red deer, crocodile and dog, PCR will not give a positive result

This is where the ‘untargeted’ approach of NGS proves key to highlighting meat and seafood substitution. NGS DNA analysis will confirm, with just one test, all the meat species that are present to confirm, for example, that the meat in a burger is solely beef.

SGS considers this to be a positive technique, confirming species, including Latin names, to help ensure the accuracy of food labels and to meet legislative requirements. In addition, NGS DNA analysis can be employed to check for allergen contamination. NGS DNA diagnostics can provide:

  • A cost-effective and timely process
  • Virtually unlimited results
  • A full biological breakdown
  • Very sensitive analyses
  • Fast turnaround times (typically 7-12 working days, although a 24 hour turnaround can be offered)
  • Competitive pricing

SGS NGS Services

SGS has a bespoke partnership with a specialist in molecular biology, Biopremier. This complements our extensive global network of ISO 17025 food testing laboratories. Biopremier is ISO 17025 accredited for NGS-based species identification, ISO 13485 certified, and a national reference lab in molecular biology for the European Commission (EC).

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For more information contact:

Charon Willis
Global Food Testing Business Development Manager
t: +44 (0) 203008 7860