Tentamus Center
for Food Fraud, TCF²

Food fraud does not only occur glob­ally. The often highly complex inter­na­tional supply chains provide multiple oppor­tu­ni­ties for fraud­sters. Adul­ter­ation can occur in a variety of ways, or different aspects of an item’s claim can be adul­ter­ated. For example, food adul­ter­ation may involve the compo­si­tion or origin of a food product.

To address this complex chal­lenge, the Tentamus Center for Food Fraud, or TCF², was founded. The TCF² not only bundles the various analyt­ical capa­bil­i­ties of the inter­na­tional network of Tentamus labo­ra­to­ries. We also use the internal Tentamus auditor network to support our customers, for example, in iden­ti­fying weak points in supply chains and intro­ducing preven­tive measures.

What are the different forms of food fraud?

Food adul­ter­ation is done specif­i­cally to deceive inter­me­di­aries and consumers in order to sell lower quality goods at a higher price. Adul­ter­ation can occur in several ways:

  • Dilu­tion, e.g. honey with syrup, cold pressed olive oil with infe­rior olive or foreign oils, soaking of juice, Robusta in Arabica coffee, olive leaves in oregano
  • Substi­tu­tion, e.g. safflower instead of saffron
  • Increase of the quality deter­mining para­meter e.g. after dilu­tion (melamine in milk to increase the nitrogen content)
  • False decla­ra­tion of origin, e.g. instead of expen­sive cold-pressed olive oil from Italy, cheaper olive oil from Tunisia is used or mixed in
  • False decla­ra­tion of the animal species, halal, kosher (horse meat scandal)
  • Promo­tion of conven­tional food­stuffs as organic goods

Which foods are particularly vulnerable to food fraud?

In general, there is a certain poten­tial for adul­ter­ation and food fraud in almost every food product. Compar­a­tively high-priced prod­ucts are partic­u­larly lucra­tive, where adul­ter­ation can massively increase profits.

Some examples are listed below:

  • Olive oil
    • Addi­tion of or complete replace­ment by infe­rior qual­i­ties (e.g. refined oil, lampante) to extra virgin olive oil
    • Addi­tion of or complete replace­ment by lower-priced foreign oils, e.g., sunflower oil
    • Addi­tion of or complete replace­ment of a high-priced origin (e.g. Italy) by a lower-priced one, e.g. Tunisia
  • Honey
    • Addi­tion of sugar syrups to stretching
  • Teas, herbs & spices
    • Addi­tion of or replace­ment with other plant mate­rial, e.g. olive leaves in oregano, safflower instead of saffron, foreign plants in (herbal) tea, replace­ment of natural vanillin from the pod with arti­fi­cial vanillin
  • Fruit juice
    • Addi­tion of cheaper foreign juices
    • Watering and sugar addition
  • Flavors
    • Substi­tu­tion of natural with synthetic flavors
  • Agave syrup
    • Addi­tion of sugar
  • Animal feed
    • Wrong animal or plant species
  • Meat & fish
    • Wrong animal species
    • Addi­tion of water
    • Addi­tion of unac­cept­able substances for coloring or color preservation
  • Spirits & wine
    • Ille­gally produced alcohol
    • Dieth­ylene glycol in wine
    • Geograph­ical origin
    • Grape variety

What are the dangers
of food fraud?

Food Fraud is a type of decep­tion. In most cases, Food Fraud results in finan­cial fraud: the customer is deceived and over­pays his supplier for an infe­rior product. In most cases, however, there is no risk of harm to consumer health. Never­the­less, there are also cases where the aspect of food safety prevails. Exam­ples include methanol in spirits, melamine in milk or harmful colorants in spices.

Legal basis
for food fraud

The control regu­la­tion VO (EU) 2017/625, which has been in force since December 14, 2019, replaces VO (EC) No. 882/2004, which was valid until then, and moves the fight against food fraud more into the focus of the control strate­gies. Thus, the risk-oriented control is to be oriented not only under the aspect of food safety, but also with regard to food fraud. Further­more, the creation of refer­ence centers at Euro­pean level for the areas of authen­ticity and integrity of the food chain has been made possible. This will facil­i­tate the detec­tion of fraud and compli­ance with food stan­dards and give more weight to the issue of food fraud in food legislation.

HACCP, VACCP and TACCP
for greater food safety

HACCP, VACCP and TACCP are control mech­a­nisms that help monitor processes and enforce food stan­dards in the food manu­fac­turing process and supply chain.

HACCP (Hazard Analysis Crit­ical Control Points) is a tool from the field of food safety. Consis­tent appli­ca­tion and adher­ence to HACCP guide­lines prevents poten­tial hazards that can creep in at various points in the produc­tion process. An example of this is checking that the cold chain is main­tained for perish­able foods. In this way, the marketability of the food can be ensured.

Anal­o­gous to HACCP, the so-called TACCP (Threat Assess­ment Crit­ical Control Points) is used in the area of product safety (food defense). TACCP aims to mini­mize the risk of delib­erate cont­a­m­i­na­tion of the product.

For the area of food fraud, the Vulner­a­bility Assess­ment Crit­ical Control Points (VACCP) is used. This involves taking a close look at a product’s supply chain. The compo­si­tion of a product is also exam­ined. The raw mate­rials from which the product is made are exam­ined, as is the origin of the raw mate­rials. Both the polit­ical situ­a­tion in the country of origin and the weather there (weather-related crop damage) can increase the risk of food fraud. The rela­tion­ship with the supplier of the respec­tive raw mate­rial is also consid­ered. Has this rela­tion­ship existed for a long time? Have there been prob­lems in the past? How was the problem dealt with? As part of the vulner­a­bility analysis, many other aspects are consid­ered and weighted in order to iden­tify the raw mate­rials that are at high risk of food fraud. For this purpose, a preven­tion strategy against food fraud is specif­i­cally devel­oped and imple­mented. In addi­tion to supplier audits, analytics in partic­ular offer powerful options for detecting food fraud. After all, even the best supplier can become a victim of food fraud and unknow­ingly pass on adul­ter­ated goods.

TCF² - Special Features, Target Group & Advantages

The TCF² is avail­able as a central contact for ques­tions on the topic of food fraud. For this purpose we use the network of more than 80 loca­tions world­wide. This enables us to be close to our customers without having to forego compre­hen­sive analyt­ical capabilities.

TCF² offers a wide range of analyt­ical services in the field of food fraud through the labo­ra­tory network of the Tentamus Group. Our goal is to provide our customers with a neutral basis for deci­sion-making based on valid data on the authen­ticity of their prod­ucts. This is equally inter­esting for retailers as well as other actors along the value chain (suppliers, importers, exporters, etc.) to effec­tively fight food fraud and avert finan­cial damage.

Through personal commu­ni­ca­tion with our clients, we ensure the best possible handling of your issue. With our global network, we are always close to you.

Laboratory analysis
for the detection of food fraud

TCF² offers analysis with state-of-the-art measuring instru­ments to prove the authen­ticity of your prod­ucts and to detect food fraud.

Isotope Ratio Mass Spec­trom­etry (IRMS, SIRA)

In this method, we look at the natu­rally occur­ring stable isotopes of various elements in food. Mostly isotopes of carbon (13C), nitrogen (15N), hydrogen (2H) as well as oxygen (18O) are used. Based on the propor­tion of these isotopes in rela­tion to the most common isotopes in nature, e.g. 13C/12C, it is possible to infer the origin (botan­ical or geograph­ical), admix­tures or even produc­tion mode. Exam­ples of appli­ca­tion include:

  • Detec­tion of admix­ture of sugar from corn or sugar cane to honey using the ratio of 13C/12C.
  • Differ­en­ti­a­tion of conven­tion­ally produced food, e.g. pork or also plant mate­rial, by means of the 15N/14N ratio
  • Detec­tion of watering of juice by measuring the 2H/1H and 18O/16O ratios.

Nuclear magnetic reso­nance spec­troscopy (NMR)

We use this tech­nique both targeted and non-targeted for so-called finger­print analysis. One targeted appli­ca­tion, for example, is the detec­tion of propor­tions of inex­pen­sive Robusta coffee in expen­sive Arabica coffee. Analyt­ical finger­prints, on the other hand, are used in the analysis of honey, agave syrup and also olive oil. Analyt­ical finger­prints provide infor­ma­tion on adul­ter­ation by admix­ture as well as on the origin of a sample.

High-reso­lu­tion mass spectrometry

In this tech­nique, which is still quite new in food analysis, analyt­ical finger­prints of the measured samples are created, similar to NMR. One appli­ca­tion is the detec­tion of syrup admix­tures to honey. By comparing the data of many different syrups with those of a large number of authentic honeys, we are able to work out adul­ter­ation markers for an admix­ture and detect them in unknown honey samples.

Triple Quadru­pole Mass Spectrometry

We use this tech­nique to specif­i­cally detect known substances that can occur in the context of adul­ter­ation. This includes, for example, various dyes such as Sudan dyes.

Next Gener­a­tion Sequencing (NGS)

NGS is a mole­c­ular biolog­ical method. The DNA contained in a sample is first cut” into small pieces. A large number of copies of the DNA frag­ments obtained in this way are made (ampli­fi­ca­tion) and finally reassem­bled into complete DNA strands. The DNA strands obtained in this way are then compared with data in a data­base that contains infor­ma­tion on over 200,000 species. Unlike PCR (poly­merase chain reac­tion), we can also use NGS to process mixtures of different species. One appli­ca­tion example is the analysis of oregano for foreign plant mate­rial, e.g. olive leaves. In the field of animal feed, we analyze animal feed for meat from species other than those labeled.

PCR

PCR (Poly­merase Chain Reac­tion) is also a mole­c­ular biolog­ical method. In contrast to NGS, however, it is only tested with regard to a single para­meter. This is useful, for example, when testing for the pres­ence of aller­gens, e.g. hazelnut. It happens that e.g. nut pastes of high-quality nuts are adul­ter­ated with cheaper nuts. In this case, the food fraud aspect can quickly become a food safety case, as consumers affected by aller­gies can be seri­ously harmed by the consumption.

How do I protect my business from food fraud?

The Tentamus Center for Food Fraud helps your busi­ness protect itself from food fraud.

How do we do that? First, we get to know your company better! To do this, we want to know from you:

  • What prod­ucts are in your portfolio?
  • What is your posi­tion in the supply chain?
  • Are you new to the topic of authen­ticity or already an old hand”?
  • Are you a start-up or estab­lished and already have a system that you want to have audited?
  • Or do you need an overview or even detailed infor­ma­tion on analyt­ical options?
We offer you tailor-made solu­tions and adapt our services to your require­ments in close consul­ta­tion with you. In this way, we support you in setting up your protec­tive shield against food fraud.

We are happy to support you in the following areas

Consulting

  • VACCP
  • Control points
  • Spec­i­fi­ca­tions
  • Preven­tion strategies
  • IFS and other standards

Analyses

  • Which analyses for which product
  • Limits of analytics
  • Perfor­mance of analytics

IFS and other industry standards

  • Audits
  • VACCP
  • Devel­op­ment of preven­tion strategies
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