Food Fraud is an increasing issue for the food industry and consumers alike.
Certain species, names, ingredients and food areas are known for having better taste, texture, appearance, environmental impact, or social impact, and people are prepared to pay more for these.
When foods which do not have the special characteristics are fraudulently substituted for these special foods, it is called food fraud and it is a very lucrative business.
When a consumer spends good money on a food because of what the label says, they need to be sure that the food matches what is on the label.
When the producer is stating that the food is of a certain species, or from a certain area, or made with certain ingredients or has a certain name, they need to be confident that the label is correct.
So what can be done to reduce the likelihood that this illegal operation occurs?
There has been a lot of work being done by scientists across the food industry to find ways to either mark the foods or ingredients, or to clearly identify specific characteristics so they can be traced.
Food Forensics was born, and particularly the field of study called food provenance. Provenance is the ability to be able to show the history of an item, so for food it is about being able to show exactly where the food has come from and what has happened to it between paddock and plate.
The latest process being considered is using chemometric and spectroscopic techniques to create and verify “digital signatures” of food.
Spectroscopy is used to determine the exact composition of a food or ingredient and then when combined with the analysis of chemometric techniques a fingerprint as such of the sample is determined.
This can then be compared with other samples in future to see if they match and show if those samples are frauds.
The key to the provenance with this method is to first identify the fingerprint of the confirmed special food or ingredient at each stage of production to provide the baseline for future comparisons.
This new method of potentially reducing or hopefully preventing food fraud is being done through the University of Queensland’s Queensland Alliance for Agricultural and Food Innovation.
For more information – go to https://qaafi.uq.edu.au/article/2021/06/digital-signature-technology-authenticates-food