Spices are among the oldest food products in the world and still enjoy great popularity today. But how can we be sure of their quality and authenticity? With serious money to be made, counterfeiters are often attempting to fradulently pass off inferior products as the genuine article.
To find out more about how fraud in this arena can be identified and stopped, we went to Belgium to meet a spice trader – and also to see scientists working at the Joint Research Centre’s Fraud Detection Unit.
Herbs and spices are the daily business of Alexandre Veuve; he is the manager of the prestigious spice specialist and gourmet grocery store Le Tour Du Monde En Epices in Waterloo, south of Brussels.
As an expert in the sector, he always guarantees that the products he sells are of the highest quality:
However, he knows only too well that fraud is a common risk in this market:
“There is generally fraud on quite expensive spices, for example saffron. This is a spice that is worth as much as gold, so obviously there are a lot of scams involving it.
“Powders are also the target of fraud because they can be more easily falsified.
“That’s why we make our own powders; we buy the spices whole and then we create them ourselves.”
“There is ofen fraud on quite expensive spices – for example, saffron. This is a spice that is worth as much as gold, so obviously there are a lot of scams involving it.”Euronews
Europe’s food fraud unit
One of the facilities of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Geel in Belgium hosts the European Food Fraud Detection and Prevention Unit. Here, teams of scientists analyse samples of spices imported to Europe using state-of-the-art technologies, in some cases using methods similar to those used for police investigations.
One of the most powerful tools at their disposal is DNA analysis. The genetic map of the spice can indicate whether or not there are foreign biological elements present.
The most common types of fraud are the use of less expensive plants, or the addition of dyes to make the spice appear more attractive or authentic.
Antoon Lievens, a Molecular Biologist at the Unit, says saffron is a good example of where fraud is regularly attempted:
“We’ve found one or two samples that were not saffron at all and the sequencing analysis has shown that it was safflower that has been sold as saffron.
“Another exemple is curcuma (turmeric). We’ve found a sample that was not curcuma, but actually paprika powder that had been dyed or coloured to look like curcuma.”
Analysis via spectroscopy
The detection of fraud is based on a set of investigative protocols, each of which unveils a part of the puzzle. Spectroscopy is one powerful method; it doesn’t require special sample preparation and allows a rapid result through the examination of the samples molecules by a laser beam.
Jone Omar, an Analytical Chemist at the Fraud Detection and Prevention Unit, says this is a foolproof method:
“Spectroscopy is basically based on a ray of light touching the sample, which makes the molecules vibrate and we then obtain a light spectrum readout of the vibration of those molecules.
“So when we focus on a pure food, we have a pure spectrum for it.
“When we spot an adulteration, the spectrum of the vibration of the molecule bands is different.”
This x-ray fluorescence technique, which is also used for non-invasive analysis of artworks to establish authenticity or otherwise, reveals whether or not inorganic materials – such as sand or clay – are present in the plant sample.
Chemical tests such as liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry allow, through the separation of the molecules, the establishment of whether or not there are traces of external dyes present.
These same techniques are also used to create chemical fingerprints of spices, which can then provide even more in-depth information about the nature of the sample.
If the adulteration is confirmed, certain measures can then be taken.
Franz Ulberth, Head of the Fraud Detection and Prevention Unit, explains:
“One of the further measures could be that you send inspectors to check the company, to look into the books, to (examine) transportation papers, establishing a chain of traceability, to trace it back to the origin.”
The spice production and distribution supply chain is spread between different countries and this makes controls more complicated.
In a growing market of global scale, the use of these techniques is key to certifying the quality of the product.
The post Preventing food fraud: Europe's battle against the spice pirates first appeared on NewswireNow – A Press Release Publishing Service.
UK beef exports to US resume after more than 20 years
British beef is back on US menus for the first time in more than 20 years as exports restart on Wedn..
British beef is back on US menus for the first time in more than 20 years as exports restart on Wednesday.
The beef was banned after the BSE outbreak in 1996 when cattle were infected by what became commonly known as Mad Cow Disease.
Some UK beef was cleared for export in March after US inspections in 2019, and shipments from Northern Ireland’s Foyle Food Group will be the first to leave.
Ministers said the US market will be worth £66m to the UK over five years.
The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, a body funded by farmers and the supply chain, called the resumption of exports a “historic moment”.
Dr Phil Hadley, a director at the board, said: “The US represents an important potential market for our red meat exports and today’s first shipment is the result of the hard work and persistence of industry and government to bring about this crucial next step.
“This important milestone will bring a fantastic boost to the sector and we look forward to seeing more of our red meat served up on dinner tables across the US in the months and years to come.”
In 2019, the US Food Safety Inspection Service undertook a series of audits at UK beef, pork and lamb facilities. Pork exports to the US continue as usual, while exports of lamb have yet to commence.
“This is great news for our food and farming industry, helping the sector go from strength to strength,” said Environment Secretary George Eustice.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said: “This could be just the tip of the iceberg. The free trade deal we are negotiating with the US will create a host of export opportunities for British agriculture. We are seeking an ambitious and high standards agreement that benefits farmers and delivers for consumers.”
However, those free trade talks remain controversial, with critics warning the government not to lower UK food standards in order to strike a deal.
This week a group of celebrities and chefs, including Jamie Oliver and Joe Wicks, said post-Brexit trade deals should not open the floodgates to lower-quality food, citing chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-injected beef.
However, Ms Truss has previously insisted the UK will not allow US chlorine-washed chicken to be stocked in supermarkets as a ban is already written into law.
She said the UK will not compromise on environmental, animal welfare and food standards in its quest for trade agreements.
GOVERNMENTS DIETARY GUIDELINES ARE FAILING THE PLANET, STUDY FINDS
Dietary advice needs to be more environmentally friendly, say scientists.
After looking at recommen..
Dietary advice needs to be more environmentally friendly, say scientists.
After looking at recommendations from around the world, a new study has found that 98 per cent of government dietary guidelines are falling behind current science for both health and environmental impact.
Theres a good chance youve never taken a second look at your countrys dietary guidelines. Despite this, they often find their way into our lives as the basis of food education, policy-making and labelling initiatives.
Research recently published in the British Medical Journal looked at available dietary guidelines from 85 different countries in every region of the world. They judged each set of guidelines against five environmental targets and one health target that governments had pledged to reach.
The health target was to reduce early deaths from non-infectious diseases by a third, while environmental targets were linked to the 2C limit set by the Paris Climate Agreement. Other environmental targets considered pollution from farming, land use and destruction of nature.
Lead researcher Dr Marco Springmann at the University of Oxford told Euronews Living that our food system is “a major driver of environmental impacts”.
“Without dietary changes towards more plant-based diets, key environmental limits related to climate change, land use, freshwater extraction, and biogeochemical flows associated with fertilizer application risk being exceeded,” he added.
Dr Springmann said that what the team behind the study discovered was “shocking and revealing”. Only two of these sets of dietary guidelines, from Indonesia and Sierra Leone, were in line with all 6 of the health, climate and pollution targets.
The report found that 98 per cent of the dietary guidelines looked at by researchers didnt meet at least one of the global environmental and health targets. Guidelines from 74 of the countries also failed to give recommendations that would keep dietary carbon emissions within the global warming limits set by the Paris Climate Agreement.
Some countries were worse than others. If everyone in the world followed advice from the US or the UK, for example, then food-related carbon emissions would be three times the limits for avoiding dangerous levels of climate change.
HOW CAN DIETARY GUIDELINES BE BETTER?
In every country the study looked at, people were eating more red and processed meat than recommended by WHO guidelines.
The researchers are recommending that new dietary guidelines are brought in line with current science with “stringent reductions in dairy and beef. They also say that there should be specific advice available for people looking to eat healthy and sustainable plant-based diets.
“We also looked at several examples of how reformed dietary guidelines could look,” lead researcher, Marco Springmann wrote in a blog post. “In short, they involved much stricter limits for meat and dairy, both for health and environmental reasons, and to be specific but not overly prescriptive, they included different dietary patterns based around plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes.”
These reformed guidelines are similar to the science-based advice of the “planetary health diet” created by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet and Health. This diet was created with the idea of providing nutritious food to the worlds growing population while addressing the role of agriculture in the climate crisis.
BALANCING HEALTH AND CLIMATE
But Helena Gibson-Moore of the British Nutrition Foundation tells Euronews Living that it is important to remember that dietary guidelines are “also developed to provide adequate nutrition to populations.”
“Dairy products might not be the most environmentally friendly foods to produce but are important sources of calcium and iodine in many countries, so reducing intakes may increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies,” she says.
“Its also important to bear in mind other factors of a healthy and sustainable diet, for example, cultural differences, as well as the cost and accessibility to foods, to ensure that dietary recommendations are achievable for everyone.”
James Martin makes brutal swipe about John Torrode
JAMES MARTIN hit out at MasterChef judge John Torrode this week during his segment on This Morning, ..
JAMES MARTIN hit out at MasterChef judge John Torrode this week during his segment on This Morning, joining Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield just weeks after the judge set fire to his kitchen live on-air.
James Martin not only has his own cooking show, but he also appears as a regular guest chef on ITV’s This Morning. During a live segment which aired earlier this week, James was on hand to chook a welsh rarebit for Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield, and the chef narrowly missed out on a blunder occurring. While Phillip started to panic, he reassured those watching at home and took aim at John Torrode instead.
James Martin had been invited to cook for This Morning on Wednesday, not once, but twice with one savoury dish and one sweet.
First up, the chef made welsh rarebit but with fish instead of bread, which is the usual recipe.
This required him to use the grill to get a golden brown top to his cheesy delight.
James explained: “Its a really iconic dish if you look at Gary Rhodes recipe, this one stands out above anything else.
“When it starts to thicken take it off the heat and once it is set, lay it on top of the fish.
James put the fish under the grill, but Phillip very quickly noticed that whenever James opened the grill, there was quite a lot of smoke billowing from the oven.
This sent the host into peels of giggles thinking that lightning had struck twice and they were about to witness another on-air fire.
James opened the oven once more and viewers could see that there were in fact flames coming from the over.
Phillip very calmly pointed out the smoke and James said: “Oh, no, no. Dont panic.”
James just quickly shut the oven door not seeming particularly bothered by what was going on inside.
“Its not John Torrode.” the chef added whilst giving a cheeky smirk to the camera.
He opened the oven door again and another gasp of smoke billowed out and he said once again: “Nah, thats alright.”
It came after MasterChef judge John Torrode also joined Holly and Phillip on This Morning a few weeks ago.
He was showing the viewers how to make a classic DIY McDonalds breakfast for those who have been missing their takeaways in lockdown.
However, in a shocking on-air blunder, John left a tea towel on an open flame in his kitchen and the show was thrown into chaos when John didnt notice.
Those watching at home saw large flames emerge behind him.
Holly cried out: “John, your tea towel is on fire,” followed by Phillip, who shouted: “John your cookers on fire, your tea towel is on fire, behind you.”
The hosts continued to shout, “look behind you,” but the chef remained obvious due to the video link delay.
“Look behind you,” Phillip shouted. “Fire, youre on fire, fire John!”
The MasterChef host calmly turned around, thanked the pair, and moved the burning tea towel to the sink.
He was all ok, but it left Holly and Phillip shaken by the drama of it all.