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Food Fraud Detection: How to differentiate food fraud from cross contamination?

Food fraud has recently become the focus of consumer concern. It is defined as an intentional act for an economic gain that should not be detected and that results in a misrepresentation of a product. The types of frauds are varied: falsified composition, false product origin, substitution of a product or an ingredient or counterfeiting. Beyond potentially causing food safety issues, food fraud can lead to heavy economic losses and the loss of consumer confidence. In order to minitigate the risks, agribusiness companies analyze raw materials for quality defects. However, analytical methods that can identify food frauds are not validated or standardized across labs. Similarly, limits between frauds and quality defects are undefined and create uncertainty in the interpretation of a food quality test result. In other words, if a contaminant is detected in a food product, should one immediately conclude to a will to commit a fraud or is it only due to a cross-contamination? This project will start by identifying the foodstuffs and contaminants for which the project partners, r-Biopharm and EnvironeX Group need thresholds between fraud and cross-contamination. The development of recipes and manufacturing protocols for adulterated or contaminated products to different degrees will be made at the University Laval and the production of these matrices will take place in the pilot laboratory at University Laval. In fact, the pilot laboratory can reproduce industrial manufacturing and cross-contamination conditions in the event of inadequate cleaning or in case of poor manufacturing practices. The methods of detection and quantification of contaminants will be those used or sold by the project partners. By quantifying the presence of contaminant(s) within food matrices, it would be possible to identify thresholds between adulteration and the result of poor manufacturing practices or adventitious presence of contaminants. Thus, this research project proposes to support the laboratories and the regulators in the interpretation of results seeking to highlight the food frauds within their surveillance program or in a process of fraud screening among the raw materials from a company. The active participation of the project partners including federal and provincial government agencies will ensure the acceptance of the identified thresholds. Finally, built on the knowledge acquired during the manufacturing of adulterated food products and the expertise of the research team, the last objective of the study is to propose protocols for the manufacture of reference material; in other words, food products which contain controlled quantities of contaminants, thus enabling laboratories around the world to test the ability of their methods to detect, quantify and confirm the presence of product fraud.

Samuel Godefroy

Université Laval

CRIBIQ's contribution

$ 61 663


Industrial participants :

  • r-Biopharm Inc.
  • Groupe EnvironeX

*Quebec public research institutes :

  • Université Laval