Tackle food fraud with this informative guide. Use the buttons below to discover the latest trends and tools for your organization.
Today’s global food supply chain is very complex. Many items on grocery store shelves pass through multiple factories across several countries. After such a long journey, it is crucial to maintain the customer’s trust that food and beverage items are accurately labeled and safe to consume. This requires protection against chemical contaminants, such as pesticides, and international food fraud (or adulterated food).
“Get ready to gear up your lab for exceptional food analysis to detect vulnerabilities across the food supply chain.”
In this Food Fraud Guide, we clearly define food fraud, and examine the extent of the problem and take a look at some of the work scientists around the globe are doing to combat the ever-changing tactics of food fraudsters. The guide uncovers the amazing work being done by food testing laboratories using different SCIEX liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) and capillary electrophoresis (CE) instrumentation to stay abreast of these ever-changing issues. Get ready to gear up your lab for exceptional food analysis to detect vulnerabilities across the food supply chain. Use this guide to gain new insights into understanding the extent of food fraud within the industry and ultimately take the right measures to protect consumers.
Defining Food Fraud
Some of the earliest documented cases of food fraud involve spice traders of the Middle Ages who would routinely bulk up their expensive wares with inexpensive adulterants such as nutshells and seeds. There is always money to be made by replacing high-quality, high-value ingredients with cheap substitutes. Food is a basic necessity of life. In modern times, it is produced, harvested, processed, formulated, packaged, and transported through an interconnected, global, network. With food products frequently crisscrossing international boundaries, regulators struggle to consistently trace adulterated ingredients and to safeguard the food supply chain.
What is food fraud:
Intentional adulteration of food: Misrepresentation, substitution, false or misleading presentation or statements about the product
Incidental adulteration of food: This may occur due to negligence, ignorance or lack of proper facilities
Not only does tampering with food cheat consumers and damage brand reputations, it produces adulterated products that could potentially be dangerous. Chemical adulterants may be toxic or cause severe allergic reactions. Food fraud could also deprive consumers of the nutrients required to maintain a healthy diet. Some of the food ingredients most susceptible to fraud include milk, olive oil, honey, fish, coffee,juices, tea, and spices such as saffron and black pepper.
Fast and Reliable Testing
Identifying adulterated food requires fast and reliable testing. Tests are performed for species identification, to determine nutritional content, and to ensure compliance with labeling regulations. The main hurdles in food fraud analysis are the lack of accurate non-targeted multi-analyte methods, method standardization, and method validation.
SCIEX offers LC-MS/MS solutions for food fraud testing that cut through these issues and provide the ability to rapidly screen and compare contents in food samples. This even includes non-targeted tests to detect unexpected adulterants and assess ingredient authenticity.
Food Fraud Global Problems
01Bolivia, 2016 – SardinesThousands of cans of sardines were found alongside fake labels, ready to be applied, for a famous Peruvian brand.
02Colombia – 2017 – Sugar850 kg of panela (unrefined whole cane sugar) was found to be adulterated with hazardous levels of sulfur dioxide, making the panela appear fresher.
03Canada, 2017 – SausagesA study commissioned by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) found that of 15 tested “turkey” sausages, five were made of 100% chicken.
04USA, 2016 – Dietary supplementsBetween 2007-2016, the FDA’s Tainted Supplements database included 781 cases of products with unapproved ingredients; 97.6% of unapproved ingredients were not declared on the label.
05Germany, 2017 – HazelnutsGerman authorities analyzing chopped hazelnuts and hazelnut paste detected up to 45% of undeclared peanuts, almonds or cashews in the products.
06Russia, 2016 – ButterA market study showed that 78% of all cheese samples tested were falsified. Some product samples replaced milk fat with cheaper palm oil substitute.
07Denmark, 2017 – Olive oilA study commissioned by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) found that of 15 tested “turkey” sausages, five were made of 100% chicken.
08Italy, 2017 – Mineral waterItalian authorities seized over 30,000 bottles of mineral water that imitated a premium brand, with labels and shapes that were similar to the genuine product.
09UK, 2013 – MeatFoods advertised as containing beef were found to contain undeclared horse meat – as much as 100% of the meat content in some cases.
10Nigeria, 2016 – Milk powderNational authorities arrested a man involved in the production and sale of fake branded powdered milk in Calabar metropolis.
11Kenya, 2018 - MeatInvestigations have revealed that some butchers adulterated meat with undeclared allergenic sodium metabisulfite, in order to give it a long-lasting fresh, red colour.
12Zambia, 2017 – WhiskyCustoms Officials halted a shipment of fake branded alcohol bottles imported from the USA. The inventory seized included almost exact imitations of renowned brands.
13Bangladesh, 2016 – TurmericTurmeric was found to be adulterated with lead chromate used to enhance the yellow color, leading to poisoned children in Bangladesh and major recalls in the US.
14Indonesia, 2016 – ChickenOfficials seized 70 kg of chicken intestines intended for distribution that had been preserved in formalin, which is highly toxic and prohibited as a food additive.
15South Korea, 2016 – Food supplementsPolice arrested a man smuggling dietary supplements to be sold online as a natural product, but which in fact contained non-natural, harmful ingredients.
16China, 2008 – Baby formulaA scandal involving milk and infant formula, along with other food materials, being adulterated with melamine, lead to widespread public health concerns.
17Australia, 2018 – HoneyA study that tested 38 locally-sourced honey samples found that 18 % were subject to adulteration with inexpensive substitutes.
On The Front Line
Detecting Food Adulterants in China Jiukai Zhang, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Agro-product Safety Research Center, Chinese Academy of Inspection and Quarantine (CAIQ)
At CAIQ, we focus on food authentication studies, such as species identification, origin traceability, and quality identification, that are based on mass spectrometry. In China, the most common adulteration practice is species substitution, especially in high value-added food and supplements. For example, edible bird's nest - an expensive, traditional Chinese ingredient harvested from swiftlet nests - is commonly substituted with cheaper materials such as egg white. Mixing berry fruit juice with inexpensive substitutes is also a common practice.
“The major challenge in our work is that you never know what will be added next, and targeted analysis of just a few constituents or even a single ingredient is very insufficient for food authenticity.”
We have found that authentication technologies are often playing catch-up to adulteration techniques. The major challenge in our work is that you never know what will be added next, and targeted analysis of just a few constituents, or even a single ingredient, is very insufficient for food authenticity. The SCIEX TripleTOF 6600 allows us to carry out high-throughput metabolomics and proteomics studies for food authentication. In addition, the omics analysis software, such as MarkerView software, ProteinPilot software, and UpidView software are used for database searching and data processing. The global food trading market makes the food chain longer than ever before, increasing novel ways of adulteration. With this high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) set-up, we can achieve large-scale analysis of numerous targeted or non-targeted characteristic markers in food samples.
Determining Food Fraud – SCIEX OS Software
SCIEX OS software delivers clear, accurate and concise results for labs combatting food fraud
The latest software offering from SCIEX comes with features that simplify and accelerate the fight against food fraud:
Confirmation of Pesticides in Jalapeno Peppers Using QTRAP® MS/MS Data and Library Matching in SCIEX OS-Q
The tactics of food fraudsters are constantly evolving, and it is imperative for food testing labs, the vanguards of public health, to quickly and accurately identify unknown compounds within food samples.
By utilizing Spectral Libraries from SCIEX, large batches of acquired MS/MS data can be rapidly compared to a database of spectra from thousands of compounds. The database includes common food adulterants such as pesticides and drug compounds. Whether combatting honey spiked with sildenafil or falsely labeled ‘organic’ produce, Spectral Libraries from SCIEX give researchers the confidence they need to build a case against fraudsters.
“Spectral Libraries from SCIEX give researchers the confidence they need to build a case against fraudsters.”
SCIEX offers libraries in both high-resolution MS/MS versions and nominal mass QTRAP versions. For labs looking to screen unknown samples, the all-in-one library provides the most comprehensive compound database available. The antibiotic and pesticide libraries allow for more targeted approaches. These detailed databases can quickly be imported to SCIEX OS, and are also available for LibraryView™ software and MasterView™ software.
Expanding Suspect Screening and Non-Targeted Identification
From poison in baby formula to hidden allergens affecting vulnerable consumers, food fraud is more than just its $40 billion annual cost. It tangibly impacts people's lives. At best, it hurts consumer confidence. At worst, it leads to serious health problems. The increasing complexity of the global food supply chain has created a system that can be abused at every step. Without quality monitoring processes, the safety and quality of food products are in jeopardy. Analytical labs need to be equipped with sensitive and high-throughput technology, empowering them to combat food fraud with confidence that no critical sample components are missed.
“The increasing complexity of the global food supply chain has created a system that can be abused at every step. Without quality monitoring processes, the safety and quality of food products are in jeopardy.”
To equip food testing labs with the tools they need, SCIEX has designed and developed some of the most advanced mass spectrometers in the industry. Through in-house research in a variety of areas, SCIEX has repeatedly shown that its technologies can deliver reliable and accurate results with the speed and simplicity required by modern testing labs. Here we present an overview of the latest SCIEX technologies, many of which are specifically designed to address the challenges involved in combatting food fraud.
SCIEX technologies deliver reliable and accurate results with the speed and simplicity required by modern testing labs.
X500R QTOF System
High-Throughput Screening for Unknowns Just Got Simple
Scientists working to combat food fraud require techniques that can offer high-throughput and sensitive detection capabilities to analyze food samples quickly, comprehensively and accurately. To meet these needs, SCIEX developed the revolutionary SCIEX X500R QTOF System.
Key features include:
Enhanced mass accuracy to deliver improved selectivity for routine quantification of targeted compounds
High-speed MS/MS data acquisition to enhance the quality of data and ensure comprehensive detection of unknown compounds
Built with cutting-edge technology
The X500R series’ intrinsic Turbo V™ ion source is synonymous with efficiency and productivity, providing the high flexibility users need to overcome regular and unexpected workflow changes. The X500R QTOF system has an independent calibrant delivery path, which maintains highly reliable mass calibration through long runs, maximizing machine uptime. Combined with the robustness to overcome challenges from food matrices, these features provide the platform with the speed and mass accuracy required for the high-throughput identification and quantification of all compounds present in food samples.
These advantages make the X500R QTOF system well suited for non-targeted screening, a crucial capability as food fraud continues to evolve. SWATH® Acquisition on the X500R QTOF system ensures that nothing is swept under the rug, giving researchers the tools they need to combat fraud and protect public health – all in a single analysis.
The X500R QTOF workflows are simple to implement and maintain, integrating seamlessly into the routines of food testing laboratories. The system can handle sample batches and complex data processing, and collected spectra can be matched against verified high-resolution MS/MS libraries. This is all designed to allow routine food testing laboratories to adopt high-throughput, high-resolution sample screening with confidence – delivering speed without compromising performance.
As an all-in-one instrument, the X500R QTOF system empowers users to perform a variety of different methods, including information-dependent acquisition, MRMHR, and SWATH Acquisition. The X500R QTOF system is a high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) system for labs that are tasked with routine detection of low levels of compounds in complex samples and with profiling the composition of samples with many unknown substances.
Using the X500R QTOF System and SCIEX OS Software to Quickly Identify Unknowns in Food Samples
A major challenge when using traditional LC-MS/MS approaches to analyze food samples is the risk of missing important low-level residues. SCIEX helps remove this hurdle by providing a front-line method that allows scientists to detect low abundance compounds that are usually concealed by the more dominant compounds in a sample.
SWATH Acquisition, available for use only with SCIEX TripleTOF and QTOF hardware, enables comprehensive detection and quantification of virtually every detectable compound in food samples. This allows users to collect the maximum amount of data in every run. SWATH Acquisition is a data-independent acquisition strategy, meaning that the fragmentation is independent of any characteristic of the compounds in the sample, such as abundance. The method provides a comprehensive quantitative analysis and full-scan high-resolution MS/MS spectrum of all detectable peptides eluting from the column. This complete MS and MS/MS picture of the sample is provided rapidly, without the need for repeated runs or analysis. By using a single generic MS acquisition method every time, you avoid the laborious method development associated with targeted MRM.
The captured SWATH data are stored as a permanent, digitized archive. The archive can be re-interrogated for different proteins and peptides as new hypotheses emerge, without the need to repeat physical processing. Using the archived data is critical when time is a factor, when repeat analyses are not an option, when sample quantity is limited, or when the sample is at risk of degradation.
With SWATH Acquisition, compounds are quantified as well as identified. The quantification is comparable to data from MRM techniques, which are considered the gold standard for quantitative mass spectrometry. The ability to comprehensively identify and accurately quantify compounds in very complex samples, over a large dynamic range, opens up a world of possibilities for those labs performing routine testing of food authenticity.
X500R QTOF System with SWATH® Acquisition for Pesticide Residue Screening in Fruits and Vegetables
The LC-MS/MS Workhorse, Intelligently Re-Engineered
Commercial labs that are monitoring the food supply chain need a fully-integrated LC-MS/MS workflow they can trust to screen many compounds in many samples, every single day. Intelligently re-engineered from the QTRAP 4000 system, the QTRAP 4500 LC-MS/MS system sets a new benchmark for robust quantification and library searching for a wide range of analytes. Considered the workhorse of mass spectrometry instrumentation because of its ruggedness and reliability, the QTRAP 4500 system can withstand repeated injections of dirty samples, requires minimal maintenance, and has ideal performance features for high-throughput food testing labs. The system maximizes uptime by handling even the most difficult food matrices with ease.
Delivering simultaneous quantitative and qualitative analyses, the QTRAP 4500 system enables powerful, unique workflows that provide a new level of confidence in acquired data. Investigators can maximize the capacity of their laboratories and deliver high-quality quantification every time. The Turbo V" ionization source, the powerful Scheduled MRM™ Algorithm, and the Curved LINAC® collision cell design work together within the system to improve the quality of data and to help ensure that fewer peaks are missed and that optimal sensitivity is achieved. These technology advances make it possible to quickly monitor extremely large panels of analytes and to provide confident identification.
“Designed for robustness, speed and quantitative sensitivity, the QTRAP 4500 system is well suited for situations where trace analyte detection is required.”
SCIEX solutions address contaminants with varied polarities and molecular weights in a highly-sensitive single analysis, while meeting regulatory requirements. Designed for robustness, speed and quantitative sensitivity, the QTRAP 4500 system is well suited for situations where trace analyte detection is required. This is a common need for identifying allergens in food. As the unpredictable future of the global food system continues to put a strain on authorities, scientists need the advantage of the QTRAP 4500 system – an instrument designed to screen, quantify, and identify targeted adulterants quickly and accurately, without compromising data quality.
Total Solution of QTRAP® Mass Spectrometry on Screening of Additives in 68 Common Chinese Health Products
With the frequent emergence of new food fraud cases posing a risk to public health, analytical food testing labs must maintain fast turnaround times and increase throughput with the most sensitive instrument available. The QTRAP 6500+ system provides the best-in-class limits of quantitation to enable the detection and quantification of the widest scope of chemical compounds present in food samples. The analysis of food authenticity covers additions or replacements of undeclared compounds as well as potential migration of unwanted substances from food packaging. The key factor for this kind of analysis is sensitivity, and the QTRAP 6500+ system is custom built for the job, while also delivering enhanced selectivity.
“The QTRAP 6500+ system provides the best-in-class limits of quantitation to enable the detection and quantification of the widest scope of chemical compounds present in food samples.”
The QTRAP 6500+ system helps achieve accurate quantification, free from matrix interferences, by delivering improved data selectivity over triple quadrupole technology, and in less time. The integrated linear ion trap's unique MRM3 (MS/MS/MS) scan adds an additional level of mass filtering that enables quantification from second generation fragment ions. This decreases interferences without added sample preparation. The SelexlON+® differential mobility separation device provides an orthogonal separation before mass separation, and offers the lab yet another tool for eliminating isobaric background interferences in complex assays. The QTRAP 6500+ system is further enhanced with integrated lonDrive'" technology, delivering best-in-class performance in three critical areas: the production, transmission, and detection of more ions – for ultimate sensitivity.
For labs that require comprehensive food residue monitoring, this technology is designed to see it all. The QTRAP 6500+ system is not only the most sensitive QTRAP system available it is also the fastest. It can switch polarity within five milliseconds, which means that molecules can be monitored in both positive and negative ionization mode in the same injection.
The system is ideal for laboratories performing demanding analyses that require exceptional sensitivity for very low-level quantification of both small and large molecules. The QTRAP 6500+ system offers the high-sensitivity, reliability and confidence required to produce data as objective evidence. It can be used to assess the efficacy and safety of a wide range of complex food products intended for local and global consumers.
Rapid LC-MS/MS Method for the Analysis of Fipronil and Amitraz Insecticides and Associated Metabolites in Egg and Other Poultry Products
Capillary electrophoresis(CE) has established its footprint in the world of food fraud testing. With that in mind, SCIEX CE instruments are developed to address challenging analytes, while keeping one eye focused on the rising demands of food testing. The key advantage lays in the ability of CE instruments to efficiently characterize proteins, as well as charged and polar analytes not easily resolved using contemporary methods.
The SCIEX CE solutions for food fraud:
PA 800 Plus System - A robust analytical platform, the PA 800 Plus system provides characterization of product purity and identity for the development and quality control of proteins in food samples
CESI 8000 Plus ESI-MS High-Performance System - Experience the revolutionary ESI-MS approach to discovering previously undetectable compounds in minimal amounts of precious food samples, extremely rapidly. The CESI 8000 Plus enables high-resolution separation of proteins and protein complexes, and eliminates ion suppression bias to help you see what you've been missing
Intact Casein - A Model System for the Separation of Intact Phosphorylated Proteins by CESI-MS