Authenticity and traceability mean

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1. Introduction

  • What does authenticity and traceability mean?
  • Why am I writing a term paper on authenticity and traceability on food?

2. The History of Food Authenticity and Traceability

  • How is Authenticity and traceability employed in the field of food science?

3. The Public Awareness of Authenticity and Traceability

  • Is there a need for public concern and awareness about traceability and authenticity?
  • Effects of food traceability on factors such as building consumer trust and studying buying behaviour.

4. The Methods of Analyzing the Authentication of Foods

  • Various techniques that have been employed for authentication of foods. A comparative and detailed analysis of the techniques.
  • Various techniques that have been employed for traceability of foods. A comparative and detailed analysis of the techniques.
  • Major areas responsible for the shortcomings in these techniques.
  • Recent advancements in these techniques, which overcame the shortcomings. Also, development of new on line/computerised techniques for attaining traceability as well as adding other qualitative and quantitative benefits.

5. Controversies Associated with Authenticity and Traceability of Foods

  • A brief (what?) on the controversies associated with the topic.
  • Case study of some controversies and their outcome.

6. Conclusions


  • Food authentication by PCR-based methods. Isabel Mafra · Isabel M. P. L. V. O. Ferreira ·M. Beatriz P. P. Oliveira.
  • Digital imaging based classification and authentication of granular food products. R M Carter1, Y Yan1 and K Tomlins2.
  • Recent technological advances for the determination of food authenticity. Linda M. Reida,*,Colm P. O'Donnellb and Gerard Downeya.
  • Establishing food authenticity. M. John Dennis.
  • Traceability of food products: General framework and experimental evidence Regattieri, A.,Gamberi, M.;Manzini, R.Source:Journal of Food Engineering, v 81, n 2, p 347-356, July 2007
  • On Improving Automation by Integrating RFID in the Traceability Management of the Agri-Food Sector Filippo Gandino, Maurizio Rebaudengo, Member, IEEE, and Erwing R. Sanchez, Student Member, IEEE
  • Effect of the food traceability system for building trust: Price premium and buying behaviour. Young Chan Choe & Joowon Park & Miri Chung & Junghoon Moon.
  • Traceability as a strategic tool to improve inventory management: A case study in the food industry Jose A.Alfaro, LuisA.Ra bade.
  • Developing On-Line Food Traceability in Japan, Junichi Sugiyam.
  • Using RFID Technology in Food Produce Traceability. Ruey-Shun Chena, C-C Chenc, K.C. Yehb, Y-C Chend, and C-W, Kuo.

Ever since food became a traded commodity there has been the potential for fraud. In fact, the earliest historical records refer to issues of food authenticity. A stele of King Hummurapi of Babylon from around 1750BC prohibits the sale of weak and overpriced beer. The penalty for falling foul of this law was to be tied up and thrown into the Euphrates. The Romans were also well aware of food authenticity issues and Pliny complained that it was no longer possible to obtain genuine Falerian wine.

Food authenticity signifies that the contents of the food mentioned at the time of labelling are in agreement to the actual content of the same. This beholds a greater importance when the constituent present in the food can be harmful to human health such as an allergic component. At times producers add undesirable compounds in the food as a substitute so as to reduce its cost of production, and have greater profit margins. This is also done by fraudulent manufacturers in food industry.

The selling of an inferior product under the brand name or guise of a superior product, requires challenging the authenticity of the product. It applies to all levels of consumers whether rich or poor as well all levels of manufacturers too.

A corrupt supplier can manufacture a product containing low grade materials and then introduce it into the market under the name of a superior product, will lead to a fraud. Therefore, it is necessary to check and establish the genuineness of the product. This manner a large proportion of food adulterations that have been done in the past or are still being carried on can be checked.

Adulteration refers to the addition of foreign materials as a substitute into a given material which lowers its cost of production . At times frauds can even include poisonous substances as adulterants due to their low economic costs.

A good modern-day example of this is honey, which can be adulterated with high-fructose corn syrup. Several techniques have been developed to check adulteration of honey and as a matter of fact in 1978, a large proportion of samples analysed of honey were found to be adulterated.

Another example of fraud in food authenticity is of pizzas manufactured by a number of small food manufacturers which are labelled as containing mozzarella when in fact they contained 'cheese analogue' - a cheese substitute made from vegetable fat.

This requires a need for public awareness and concern, so that food authenticity can be established.

Significantly, the discovery of a fraud can affect honest and dishonest traders equally, because once a reputation for quality is ruined, it is not easily regained. A company having an established brand also suffers a setback, as the consumers begin to doubt its authenticity too. It also sometimes results in the establishment of set of rules by the government which regulate the quality of the product.

An example of this was the adulteration of Austrian wine with antifreeze (ethylene glycol).[2] It has the property of increasing the viscosity of the substance it is added to. Therefore, the resultant wine appeared to be thicker. Hence when this fraud was detected, an Appelation control was established to as to keep a check on the quality of wines.

At times such frauds result in potential health hazards, whereby the component that is used as a substitute can cause serious health problems such as allergic reactions, death at times. For example, the Spanish toxic oil syndrome {3}was a result of Spanish oil containing ethylene glycol, which is poisonous in nature.

Several methods have been advised since a long time, to check for food authenticity.

A number of instruments are used fro this purpose, such as lactometer. It measures the density of milk and thereby checks for any adulterations present.

Also, a number of protocols involving the use of chemical agents to bring about specific chemical reactions have been devised to check for authenticity. Also, techniques such as HPLC can directy indicate the presence of any adulterant in the given food sample. Various enzyme assays are also employed, which indicate the presence or absence of a specific antigens, such as ELISA kits. An example of this approach is seen for checking the presence of alkaline phosphatases, an enzyme that disappears after pasteurization of milk. Hence, authenticity of milk can be established and its suitability for consumption.

At times, a certain methodology developed in order to detect the fraudulent in a particular food, becomes of no further use after its primary usage. This is because the fraudsters change their adulterant component by finding new ways or sources of addition of other low economic substances, which cannot be detected using the same technique. An example of this is the case study of adulterations in the juice industry, for example orange.

Orange Juice is generally adulterated by addition of sugar to concentrates, which is then diluted to specific degrees. Since, the proportion of sugar in the orange juice is in a specific ratio of particular sugars i.e., glucose, sucrose and fructose in a ratio of about 1:2:1. Therefore beet medium invert sugar (BMIS) along with some fruit acid, such as malic acid is used as adulterants to have same sugar-acid composition as in an orange juice. Therefore, the best approach to check for adulteration is by observing the amount of trisaccharides that are formed when BMIS is broken down. Also, another approach involved the use of an enzyme test for detecting D-malic acid, which is absent in fresh orange juices. However it is present as a racemic mixture (1:1 ratio of D and L forms of Malic acid) in commercial preparations. Therefore, the presence of D-malic acid form signifies the unauthenticated orange fruit juice.

The use of these techniques proved to be quite beneficial in the 1990 when a large proportion of fruit juices were found to be adulterated and uncoupling with the labelled components. However, after a few months with the knowledge of this method to the fraudsters it could not be further employed as the adulterants were now replaced with some other commercial preparations which are now undetectable, as the test is irrelevant to them. Hence, there is a continuous need for new methodologies to be invented in order to maintain the authenticity of the given product, as the existing methods are short lived.

Authenticity can also be tested by isotope measurements. The ratio of stable isotopes of two elements is generally measured (hydrogen, 2H/1H and carbon 13C/12C). The technique used is SIRMS which measures the ratio of carbon isotopes in the given sample, and therefore keeps a check on the source of the carbon isotope. This method is useful when different materials having different C-isotopes are added to the sample food. Addition of High fructose corn syrup to honey was detected using this.

The disadvantage of this technique is that the sample under testing has to be burnt off on order to determine the C levels. Also, in case the food sample contains different forms of C-isotopes then it cannot be distinguished from foreign materials.

Using NMR to measure hydrogen isotope ratios is both a time consuming and expensive procedure because staff and equipment costs are high. It is often preferred to SIRMS because measuring hydrogen in organic molecules by the latter technique can be even more difficult. Future developments are likely to concentrate on achieving better sample preparation methods, which generate quicker turnaround times for both these isotope measurement techniques.

Consumers are required to be more aware of the components mentioned in the label of a given food.

An incorrect labelling is a commercial swindle. A high value component is primarily replaced by a low commercial value substitute, which can also pose potential health risk. This results in an increase in the occurrence of food-associated allergies. The most common food allergens include eggs, milk, peanuts, soyabean, walnuts, fishes etc. Therefore,.....

The information that a consumer derives from a product label is significant in terms of his choice over the other varieties. For instance a vegetarian would not prefer any non vegetarian component present in his food, therefore the label should depict the presence or absence of any such components. Similarily, if a person on the basis of religion does not want 2 consume...

The species of the given component can be either determined by DNA or protein analysis. Since, DNA is present in all the cells as well as is more stable than protein. Therefore, it can be amplified and analysed using PCR, polymerase chain reaction.

PCR method helps establishing the species of origin in foods as well as checks the presence of GMOs (Genetically modified organisms) or other potential food allergens. It is non-time consuming as well as highly efficient. It is based on the principle of hybridisation of nitrogenous base. Primers are small oligonucleotide molecules which hybridise to specific regions on the DNA of the sample. Upon binding the particular region undergoes repeated replication to give rise to a number of DNA copies, which can be then subjected to agarose gel electrophoresis to result in a specific gel pattern. This gel pattern is characteristic of the given species, which makes this technique highly specific and efficient. The technique proved to be quite beneficial in terms of adulteration of beef (Bos taurus) by addition of pork (Sus scrofa). Undeclared pork is an undesirable contaminant on the basis of religious beliefs as well as health reasons. Some people can even be allergic to pork products. Hence, the pork DNA was subjected to pcr and compared with the gel patterns produced after electrophoresis of contaminated food. Since the contaminated has both beef and pork DNA, therefore it will give a distinct gel pattern.

Further specificity is brought about by subjecting the DNA fragments generated after PCR to restriction endonucleases in the technique called as PCR- RFLP. It leads to digestion of the DNA by cleaving the glycosidic bonds at specific location due to high specificity of the endonucleases. This results in a different set of gel pattern which can be then matched to the gel pattern produced by the pure form of the species in order to establish the authenticity.

Other DNA based techniques involve amplification of random DNA segments by the help of single and short primer molecules having random sequences to bind to different DNA regions. This selective amplification results in the generation of fragments which then produce a characteristic gel pattern. Similarly, analysis of SSR (single sequence repeats), which are specific DNA segments having repeated sequences can also be employed for authentification purposes. It is also called as micro satellites. It generates a different gel pattern upon electrophoresis which is then characteristic for the species.

Quantitative competitive PCR and Real time PCR are two techniques which are useful in quantification of the food species. They play a major role when the amounts of GMO (Genetically modified organisms) or allergen compounds present in the food are to be quantified. They involve specific designed primers which are radio labelled also. These probes hybridise with the DNA sequence of the GMO in question and hence help in their detection and quantification simultaneously. Laube et al. [50] developed two TaqMan real-time PCR systems which were able to distinguish between beef and pork in a total of eighteen animal species and with sensitivities lower than 0.1% (w/w) for both species.

Fish and sea food products are in high demand all over the world. They vary from unprocessed products where the fishes are sold without any changes in its initial composition to processed (beheaded, marinated, skinned, salted, smoked etc.). The processing increases the variety of sea food products as well as improves the desirable traits. Earlier the authenticity of the fish was decided on the basis of morphological examination; however, with the development of DNA based techniques even the closely related species can be easily distinguished. Species specific primers play a major role in establishing sea food authenticity. It involves designing of artificial primers characteristic of binding to a particular species DNA, therefore, enabling its differentiation.

Similarly, PCR-RFLP technique has been employed by Russel et al. [81] for the identification of salmon species based on the amplification of a region of the cytochrom b mitochondrial gene. Then it was subjected to polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE), whereby the gel pattern obtained allowed the distinction between of ten salmon species. Also other fish species such as Nile perch (Lates niloticus), flat fish, Tuna etc. have been differentiated from their closely related species by PCR-RFLP.

Dairy products form an essential part of our diet, and because of its commercial value is often subjected to contamination. Milk is usually contaminated with low grade fluids in order to increase the production while keeping its integrity. Processed dairy products such as cheese are often contaminated with nondeclared cow's milk which can be responsible for allergic reactions, if consumed. Therefore, it is necessary to establish authenticity of dairy products. For adulteration detection of goat's cheese with cow's milk, Maudet and Taberlet [99] developed a species-specific PCR technique which contains probes targeting a specific sequence from the control region of mitochondrial DNA. This allowed the detection of 0.1% (w/w) of cow's milk in goat's cheeses being analysed.

Also in the case of mozzarella cheese which is essentially to be made from pure water buffalo milk is often adulterated by non declared milk from other species. This can be checked by a variety of PCR techniques such as By a species-specific PCR it was detected the presence of undeclared cow's milk in Mozzarella cheese samples with a sensitivity of 1.5% (w/w) [112]. Also, real-time PCR technique for quantitative detection of cow's milk is widely applied to show the authenticity of commercial Mozzarella cheese samples [115].

Since most of the food materials are made up of granules of specific substances, therefore, the authenticity can be established by determining its consistency and size of particles of the constituent components. Digital imaging technique and image processing is a rapidly growing area based on this principal. It is an advanced, but cost-effective technique. It is based on characterising granular food stuffs either in real time process control or in an off-line, sample-based, manner. The imaging approach also allows precise characterization of individual grains of material by measuring the size of the particles present and then comparing it to the established data. This is especially important when high value grains are adulterated by the addition of low grade grains, as in the case of rice. Though DNA testing can be employed but since its an expensive technique and also not practically feasible for a huge mass of grains.

The image is taken having a contrasting background. It is then subjected to partitioning by which the constituent particles are analysed based on their sizes. This involves the help of thresholding, associating a particle boundary based on size. It also has its limitations, the perceived particle size from the image may change considerably with selected threshold value due to variations in the particle boundaries. This generally happens with change in the background contrast.