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US organization unveils food fraud database

A repository of articles and reports on food additives from the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention is an important step in keeping consumers safe


Rockville, Md. – The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) has unveiled a food fraud database.

USP says it developed the searchable online database as a repository for food ingredient fraud reports and associated analytical detection methods.

MSNBC.com reports that the Department of Homeland Security commissioned the database, which includes more than 1,300 scholarly articles and popular media reports about food additives and quality.

From a review of the articles and reports, says MSNBC.com, the researchers identified the seven leading foods subject to fraud. The list includes:
• milk
• honey
• olive oil
• saffron
• apple juice
• coffee
• orange juice.

The USP researchers also identified how food fraud is committed. MSNBC.com says that researchers found that most food fraud consists of substituting a low-cost ingredient for a higher-cost one. One example is diluting expensive olive oil with hazelnut derivatives. Another is glycerin, which is found in many products, and has also sometimes been replaced with similar but occasionally toxic substitutes.

What is food fraud

USP says it considers food fraud to be the “deliberate substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging, or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain.”

It adds that the information it has collected in the database can be useful to parties responsible for assessing existing and emerging risks and trends for economically motivated adulteration, authenticity, fraud, or counterfeiting issues for food ingredients.

USP says ingredient substitutions are subject to few regulatory restrictions. “There is a general sense that food fraud is a major global problem for the food industry,” Jeff Moore, a USP researcher, told MSNBC.com. “But no one knows the size of the problem. No one has collected and compiled all the information in the public domain on this topic.”

“This database is a critical step in protecting consumers,” Dr. John Spink, another of the researchers, commented in a USP statement. “Food fraud and economically motivated adulteration have not received the warranted attention given the potential danger they present.”

The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Food Science.


Deanna Rosolen

Deanna Rosolen

Managing Editor, Food in Canada
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