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.
30 Best Oreo Flavors, Ranked and Tested
We write about Oreos a lot here. Like, a lot a lot. But can you blame us? The classic cookie has been around longer than any of us have (since 1912!), and there are so many Oreo recipes and desserts out there that frankly, we’re surprised that we as a society haven’t caused a nationwide shortage. There are few things in the world more simple and versatile as an Oreo cookie and milk (yes, that includes all of the 85-plus flavors in the brand’s history), and it’s safe to say we’re just a little bit obsessed. Case in point, this giant Oreo cake, these Oreo truffles, this Oreo popcorn, and this Oreo cookie skillet. You get the idea.
It was only a matter of time before we turned around and said, “Have we ever tried them all in one sitting?” We hadn’t. So we did.
Of course, there were hiccups. Although so many Oreo flavors have emerged over the course of the cookie brand’s 110-year lifespan, some flavors are hard to find on shelves. Some seem to be discontinued. Others are only available overseas. Green tea Oreos, for instance, are only available in Japan. (But whyyyy?) That said, our editors are nothing if not intrepid, tracking down a whopping 30 Oreo varieties for an in-depth taste test.
Without further ado, here’s our worst-to-best ranking of every Oreo flavor we could get our hands on. Let us know if we missed any favorites!
How to convert a mushroom hater
As with any difficult relationship, Ollie, it can take work, but there is hope. “When you say, ‘I don’t like mushrooms’, it’s like saying you don’t like wine,” says self-confessed fungus obsessive Will Murray. “There are so many varieties out there, and they all behave in different ways.” The chef and co-founder of Fallow in London, who even grows his own at the restaurant, adds: “If, for example, you brine and deep-fry grey oyster mushrooms, they take on the texture of fried chicken.”
Perhaps a simpler strategy in the fight against squishy, spongy mushrooms, however, is to fry them on a high heat. “You need to be in danger of setting off the smoke alarm, or you’re not doing it properly,” Murray says. Then, as in life, it pays to be patient – and use more butter than seems reasonable. “Mushrooms hold a lot of liquid, so you need to fry them for quite a while to get them crisp,” says Helen Graham, head chef of veg-led Bubala in London. “If you don’t take them to the colour you want before adding other stuff to the pan, the mushrooms will never catch up.”
You could also try replicating Bubala’s charred oyster mushroom skewers. “We marinate the mushrooms in soy sauce, agave, coriander seeds, garlic and vegetable oil, then thread on to skewers and grill,” Graham says. “The agave helps to caramelise them, and obviously the oil helps to give crispiness and a really nice texture.”
Alternatively, pop a portobello in a bun. “I grew up in the Middle East, where it’s always barbecue weather,” says Noor Murad, who heads up the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen. “I love throwing mushrooms on the grill and slathering them in barbecue sauce [homemade or store-bought].” Melt a square of cheese on top, if you fancy, and serve with slaw.
It’s also worth considering how you prep the mushrooms. “You want to keep their meaty integrity, so you can really get your teeth into them, which means don’t chop them too small,” Murad explains. That said, a duxelles [finely chopped mushrooms cooked in butter with onions or shallots and herbs] might be a good gateway. “If she doesn’t enjoy the texture of mushrooms, make a very finely chopped duxelles,” Murray says. “The mushrooms dissolve into the sauce and add a rich undercurrent of earthy umami.” Spread on toast, add to omelettes or mashed potato, or go all out with a wellington.
You could also, of course, do away with cooking them altogether. “Raw mushrooms aren’t slimy,” says Murray, who suggests thinly slicing chestnuts or portobellos, dressing them with sherry vinegar (“or even a little sherry”), dijon mustard, olive oil, fresh herbs and minced garlic, then adding to salads. Dried mushrooms, meanwhile, have “second chance” written all over them. “They’re amazing, especially in the base of soups and stews,” Murad says. “You don’t get the texture, but you’ll get that umaminess – maybe that’s a good way to get Ollie’s partner to like mushrooms.” Graham agrees. She adds shiitake (“porcini would be equally delicious”) and kombu to stock, reduces down “with something tangy like pomegranate molasses”, then uses it as a sauce for cabbage. Happily, it’s good with other veg, too, so there’s shroom to manoeuvre. *groans*
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.