Gardenia for saffron: food fraud becomes more sophisticated
You may not be familiar with Operation Opson, but if you work in the food industry, this is of interest to you.
Opson is an anti-foodfraud operation coordinated by Europol and Interpol to recall from the market beverages and foods that do not meet minimum quality requirements, have been adulterated or counterfeited.
The results of OpsonXI have just been presented and are discouraging. Eight criminal network shave been broken up in the 26 participating European countries, with a total of26,800 tons of food and 15 million liters of alcoholic beverages seized.
This year's operation focused on passports and horse meat, honey and bee products, meat and fish products, organic food, olive oil, seeds and plants, as well as spirits and wines.
Spain is not spared either: 65 people arrested and 14 anti-fraud operations.
But how, despite controls, we continue to be cheated?
Saffron, we know, is one of the most frequently adulterated spices because of its high price. But the methods of fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated. In Opson XI, a criminal group importing molecularly modified gardenia extract from China and passing it off as saffron was dismantled.
Gardenia contains crocin, a component also found in saffron, so even with quantitative analysis with NIR equipment, adulterations could go undetected.
Hence the importance of implementing advanced quality control systems with NIR technology in food companies. Chemometric Brain can carry out qualitative analyses, which allow food samples to be compared with other previously stored correct product samples. So, it is possible to detect minimal deviations, even with as little as 1% adulteration.
Alert: oil unfit for consumption
Oil is also the object of greed by criminals. In Opson XI, Spanish authorities seized 24,400 liters of bottled oil and 30,300 liters of bulk oil. After analysis, this oil was declared NOT SUITABLE FOR CONSUMPTION! It lacked traceability certificates and was a mixture of different oils.
How many liters of this oil of dubious origin must have been put on the market before the network of fraudsters was dismantled? In this case, a simple qualitative NIR analysis by the distributor would have been sufficient to detect that it was a mixture of oils of different qualities and origins.
How can we improve controls onproducts as susceptible to fraud as spices or oils?
It is necessary to make further progress in the application of spectrometry in quality control, especially in the creation of product libraries that allow for qualitative analysis, which are the most effective.
Two years ago, Chemometric Brain, in collaboration with the Austrian organization Imprint Analytics, conducted a study to authenticate the origin of extra virgin olive oils. The aim was to develop appropriate chemometric models using the NIR spectra of extra virgin olive oil to determine the origin of the oil and to ensure that the contents of the bottle conformed to the labeling.
We will never tire of repeating it:collaboration is key to making progress and preventing fraud. And we have the tools to achieve this.
At Chemometric Brain we are building a secure digital platform in the cloud, accessible from anywhere in the world, which already has more than 150,000 NIR spectra. This platform allows to connect different operators in the supply chain and to dump and share data (product libraries) in a secure environment to facilitate comparative analysis of all types of samples.
Shall we start detecting fraud together?
Gettingstarted with NIR technology to detect fraud is easier than it sounds. Forstarters, there is no need for investment or specialized technicians. You can start by sending us your product samples and we will analyze them and send you the results.
You will be able to instantly authenticate your raw materials, ingredients and/or final products, detecting in a few seconds any slightest deviation. This will help you understand how our NIR software works and compare the speed and effectiveness of the process with your current quality control systems.