(Editor’s Note: This is an online-only article attributed to the December/January 2019 issue.)
Food fraud—the act of deliberate substitution, addition, contamination, and misinterpretation of food products such as spices and herbs, seafood, dairy products, fruit juice, meat, oils, and others—is a concern for consumers, producers, and distributors globally. It destroys the image of companies, throws a market into disorder, and affects consumer confidence in the industry. Though there are several types of food fraud, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) specifies it as two types: the sale of food that is unfit and potentially harmful, and the deliberate misinterpretation of food. Food items most susceptible to food fraud include dairy products, oils, honey, fish, meat, coffee, juices, herbs, and spices—such as saffron and black pepper. Thus, the assessment of food authenticity has become greatly important. It ensures the originality and safety of every food product coming onto the market. Food authentication can be ensured by using some advanced methods and techniques on a variety of food products. Some of the techniques include chromatographic, spectroscopic, biochemical, microscopical, immunological, isotope, and electrophoretic methods.
The demand for food authenticity testing has grown considerably in recent years owing to the enforcement of stringent regulations associated with food fraud, the increased economically motivated adulteration due to the growing competition among food producers, and the rising instances of food debasement such as adulterations, false labeling, and certification. According to Allied Market’s report on food authenticity industry, the market is expected to accrue a sum of $9,840 million, growing at a CAGR of 8.1 percent from 2018 to 2025.
Companies in the space adopt strategies such as partnerships, acquisitions, and more to offer advanced techniques of food authenticity testing to combat food fraud and improve food safety. They devote a considerable amount of resources to the development of various methods to identify food ingredients that are adulterated. In July 2018, Eurofins Scientific, a Luxembourg-based testing laboratories company completed the acquisition of Laboratories Ecosur, S.A., one of the leaders of the food testing market in Spain. The acquisition is aimed at offering their clients a larger analytical testing portfolio. In August 2018, Eurofins also acquired Covance Food Solutions, a Wisconsin-based company to strengthen its food testing offering in the U.S. In March 2018, the European Commission launched a Knowledge Center to improve food quality and fight against the long-standing issue of food fraud. In July 2018, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) partnered with 3M, a manufacturing company for the use of pathogen detection instruments and kits in food safety. The Dubai Central Lab (DCL) recently announced its introduction of a new device to test bigger food samples and ensure public safety.
Eurofins Strengthens Position in Spain and Turkey
The acquisition of Ecosur by Eurofins Scientific enables the latter to set a strong foothold in Spain and Turkey and gain a leadership status in the Spanish Food analysis industry. The deal allows them to serve their customers better in South East Spain, a prominent fruits and vegetables agricultural area in Europe. “We are very pleased that the laboratory we founded will become part of Eurofins’ family of entrepreneur-led businesses,” say Dr. Luis Coll and Julio Hernandez, founders of ECOSUR. “As a result of gaining access to Eurofins’ entire portfolio of competencies, we can now offer our clients a larger analytical testing portfolio, significantly expanding our breadth of services to the benefit of our clients.”
Eurofins Purchases Covance
Eurofins recently purchased Covance Food Solutions from LabCorp for a sum of US $670 million. The acquisition is aimed at expanding Eurofins’ presence in North America, the U.K., and Asia. The deal allows Eurofins to gain the scale and scientific depth in the U.S. that it enjoys in Europe and brings Covance’s long-standing relationships with many big U.S. food and beverage companies to the Eurofins Group. These clients capitalize on the robust technological portfolio and international network of Eurofins’ food testing laboratories globally. As Covance’s service offerings and geographical footprint are complementary with those of Eurofins, no restructuring of either business is required.
European Commission Tackles Food Fraud
The European Commission launched a novel information-sharing system or Knowledge Center to deal with the problem of food fraud and quality in the European Union. Operated by European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, the center is made up of experts in and outside the commission. It has been established as a response to the concerns of consumers about food items susceptible to adulteration including olive oil, wine, honey, dairy products, fish, and meat. The Knowledge Center for Food Fraud and Quality involves coordinating market surveillance activities, operating an early warning and information system for food fraud, and linking the information systems of the Member States and the European Commission, and generating country-specific knowledge. The center produces newsletters, interactive maps, databases, and regular reports and makes this information publicly available. “Food is one area where science can very directly and tangibly demonstrate the benefits it brings to citizens,” says Tibor Navracsics, the Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth, and Sport. “The quality of the food we eat is important to all of us, and because food fraud is a transnational criminal activity, the EU has a clear role to play in the response. The launch of the Knowledge Centre for Food Fraud and Quality is an important step. It will help protect the integrity of the EU food chain and safeguard the quality of food products, generating a clear added-value for Europeans.”
USDA FSIS Partners with 3M
The USDA FSIS recently formed a partnership with 3M Food Safety for the use of pathogen detection instruments and kits in food safety. Under the contract, the 3M Molecular Detection System is the primary method to be used by USDA FSIS for detecting Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and E. coli O157 (including H7), which are the main pathogenic organisms posing a threat to the safety of meat, poultry, and egg-related products. Integrating technologies such as isothermal DNA amplification and bioluminescence detection, the molecular detection system offers a fast, accurate, and simple way to detect pathogens and overcomes some of the disadvantages of polymerase chain reaction pathogen testing methods. “Protecting food, consumers, and businesses with innovative and reliable technologies has been at the core of everything we do, so the USDA FSIS’ selection of 3M as a partner is the validation of the science and the spirit of our work,” says Polly Foss, global vice president of 3M Food Safety. “The 3M Molecular Detection System has proven to be a highly accurate and efficient tool for many food producers globally.”
New Testing Device for Food Safety in Dubai
The new testing device launched by the Dubai Central Lab is meant for testing the bigger capacity of fruits and vegetables that reach to 600 types of samples a day to ensure that they are free of pesticides and fit for human consumption. Amin Ahmed, director of DCL, says the testing device detects a variety of chemicals in imported fruits and vegetables faster and with greater accuracy. The device offers different types of inspection and is full-fledged with regards to capacity it can receive. According to Iman Al Bastaki, director of the food safety department at the Dubai Municipality, the civic body has been looking to test bigger samples of fruits and vegetables to ensure higher food safety amid virus outbreaks.
Sarkar is senior content writer at Allied Analytics LLP. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.