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Food fraud fighters go high tech

Posted: 19 September 2018 |

It came like a hard slap to the face for most people in the developed world. How could horsemeat end up in the human food supply chain? Sure, stories about food fraud and contamination in the developing world seem commonplace. The infamous melamine milk scandal of 2008 sickened hundreds of thousands of children and led to the deaths of at least six infants in China. More children died in India in 2013 when they ate school lunches tainted with an insecticide. But Western Europe in the 21st Century…

One thing the horsemeat scandal of 2013 proved beyond a doubt is the global scale of food adulteration. USA Today reported that tracing horsemeat back to its source was systemic. In a matter of weeks, investigators found deliberately tainted meat throughout most of Western Europe and in a variety of products, from Swedish meatballs to burgers.

Across the pond, U.S. food experts uneasily admitted that consumers might also be susceptible, since a single pound of ground beef could originate from as many as 400 different cows. “If there was a lot of horsemeat around, it could easily get mixed in and nobody would notice if nobody checked,” Marion Nestle, a food studies professor at New York University, told USA Today.

The sorry fact is food fraud, or the intentional defrauding of food and food ingredients for economic gain, is still on the rise. So long as there is a profit to be made, everything from pricey olive oil, honey, fish, spices, and whiskey to fruit juices, energy drinks, and nutraceuticals are all subject to adulteration. There are so many adulterated products, in fact, that the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (better known as the USP) maintains a global food fraud database to track problematic food ingredients as well as detection methods.

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