How to minimize the risk of food fraud from coronavirus

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Watch this on-demand webinar to better understand the emerging risks of food fraud from the coronavirus and how to mitigate them


Dr Bert Popping, Managing Director, FOCOS

The food supply chain can be daunting due to its extraordinary complexity. With this complexity comes the opportunity for food fraud. Coronavirus crises dramatically amplify the opportunities for fraudsters, as in-person audits are no longer possible to uncover hidden rooms and storage areas or prohibited materials. This places a significant burden on food analysts to find food fraud through laboratory tests.

In this webinar on demandDr Bert Popping, Managing Director of FOCOS, explores recent developments in molecular methods and places them in the context of standardization and existing public and private law. Dr Popping highlights the activities of government agencies, nonprofits such as AOAC, ILSI and USP, and private law regimes such as BRC, IFS and SQF, and highlights how the development of species determination methods can help detect adulteration. .

Read on for highlights from the live question-and-answer session or sign up for watch the webinar at the time that suits you.

Q: Governments are active on food fraud, but it seems that some countries are more active than others. Is this impression correct?

PA: I’m not quite sure that impression is correct, but what is certainly fair to say is that the governments of some countries invest more resources in the fight against food fraud than others. We see this in different European countries.

We have countries that have created their own institutes with a lot of equipment and human resources, which means that they would be able to move faster in the development or implementation of food fraud detection methods. . While other countries have seen less effort towards the development or implementation of these technologies.

Q: What is going on in food chemistry and what are the recently developed non-target methods?

PA: We have seen several methods, both the molecular biology method with NGS and the food chemistry method, in particular with the LC-MS / MS method, but also the NIR and STR methods have experienced a real boom.

It’s not just the method, it’s also the equipment you see. We’re moving towards portable equipment, where you don’t need a sample that you send to a lab, but you can do it on-site. If you get a result that does not match the profile then you will want to take a sample.

It seems that tech developers and companies are also moving the first line of defense from only proprietary testing in the food lab to the food production site, and sometimes even the buying site where you buy the raw materials. There has been quite a bit of development, it’s a dynamic area at the moment.

Q: How will untargeted methods be validated if you don’t know what they are targeting?

PA: It’s quite a challenge because you’re right to say, “If you don’t know what you’re looking for, how can you validate it?

At AOAC, we have taken an approach where we rely on a number of adulterants that we know of, and the untargeted method must recognize the majority, or ideally all. When you perform method validation, the laboratory that developed the method or the manufacturer of the equipment that developed the method will receive samples containing a range of adulterants known to the person submitting the samples. It is a way of validating the methods. I am sure that, in the process of deploying these untargeted methods, we will discover a number of new adulterants so far undetected.

Q: When it comes to validating untargeted approaches, how do you standardize this process?

PA: At AOAC, we are already developing a protocol, and other protocols already exist, for non-target methods. We have Standard Method Performance Requirements (SMPR) for milk, extra virgin olive oil and honey. And right now the team is working on spices and plants, and not just on the chemistry side but also on the molecular biology side.

Also, at European level, you notice that the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) has set up a new technical committee, the TC460, on food fraud. I believe it’s subgroup five that is working on how to standardize and validate non-target methods.

Q: What is the possibility of adding new species to the NGS database?

PA: It’s a piece of cake, as soon as you have the sequence. You also don’t necessarily need the entire sequence of a species. Most NGS methods are based on either cytochrome b or cytochrome oxidase, and for plants this is matKO. Therefore, any new species that come out can be easily added once you have that stretch of sequence.

Q: In the case of processed meat, which method is most suitable for detecting adulterations, a DNA-based method or a protein-based or proteomics-based approach?

PA: It depends on the matrix. If you have pure meat I would say the PCR method is the best choice because you can easily take any species that you have a reference for in the database.

However, if you don’t have any meat but have a processed product like protein from soybeans or some other plant, and you want to know what else is in there, you don’t. may not have enough DNA, so the protein method is probably the best. a. It really depends on what kind of matrix you have in front of you. If it is simple meat, DNA is probably the method of choice.

Q: What is the percentage of error caused by techniques like NGS?

PA: Someone once presented a really nice picture, based on the raw data, you either have the monster Mona Lisa or Frankenstein with an NGS scan. Depending on the bioinformatics pipeline and the technology you use, you may get different results. There are standard station approaches for NGSs that are en route that will minimize these errors, and they will specify what the maximum allowable error would be.

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