Unauthorized Food Manipulation as a Criminal Offense: Food Authenticity, Legal Frameworks, Analytical Tools and Cases
2. Legal Framework
2.1. Definitions and Legislation of Food Fraud in the EU
2.2. Definitions and Legislation of Economically Motivated Adulteration in the US
3. Types of UFM
|Country, Year||Food||Unauthorized Food Manipulation *||Adulterants||Case||Reference|
|Fraud Type (USA), FDA 401, 403||Fraud Type (EU), 178/02 Article 8|
|Chinese honey||Fifteen people and six companies from all around the world were accused of masking Chinese-origin honey with new packaging and false documents before shipping it to the U.S. for consumption in various forms 1.|||
|Italy, 2017||Acacia honey||Adulteration Substitution/Tampering||Mislabelling|
|Flower honey||A distributor of local and foreign honeys (Romania, Croatia, and Argentina) was selling flower honey labelled as acacia honey that was 40% more expensive. Twenty-two tons of honey were seized after discovering the fraud using pollen analysis 1.|||
|Corn syrup||An Australian honey distributer was accused of selling honey adulterated with corn syrup to increase profit 1.|||
|South Africa, 2018||Natural honey||Adulteration|
|Solution of sugar and lemon||A honey producer from South Africa was accused of preparing concentrated sugar solution spiked with lemon and selling it as honey. The producer denied the accusation but confessed feeding bees with sugar. Products labelled as natural honey were recalled from the stores 1.|||
|Canada, 2019||Imported honey||Adulteration Dilution/Substitution|
|Sugar cane and rice syrup||Tests carried out by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency indicated that 22% of tested imported honey was diluted with sugar cane or rice syrup. Unlike imported honey, none of the Canadian honey tested was adulterated 1.|||
|Italy, 2020||Honey||Tampering||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Honey without origin label||Seven tons of honey were seized because they lacked a label of origin. This was the same honey that was seized before because of noncompliance with legal hygienic requirements but was placed again on the market illegally 1.|||
|Greece, 2017||Olive oil||Adulteration|
|Mislabelling, Deceiving practice||Sunflower oil dyed green||Sunflower oil dyed green labelled as extra virgin olive oil was sold throughout Europe 1.|||
|Italy, 2019||Olive oil||Tampering||Mislabelling|
|Chlorophyll, soya oil, beta-carotene||To obtain the right color, chlorophyll, soya oil, and beta-carotene were added to olive oil and sold at ten times greater price 1.|||
|Brazil, 2020||Extra virgin olive oil||Adulteration Tampering|
|Soybean oil||Nine companies sold soybean oil as extra virgin olive oil.|||
|France, 2012||High quality wine||Tampering Substitution/|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Low quality wine||The winery was blending low-quality wine with other wines and sold the blends as a high-quality Bordeaux wine to supermarkets 1.|||
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Sugar||In order to increase the alcohol content, the wine company was accused for adding sugar to wine. Around 450,000 litres of wine and 7000 kg of sugar were seized 1.|||
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Corn syrup||The Spanish authorities arrested six people that produced adulterated wine. They utilized isoglucose (e.g., corn syrup) to produce wine and alcoholic drinks such as brandy.|||
|Deceiving practice||Horse meat||Horse meat scandal in 2013 affected all EU member states and 15 other countries. It was discovered that the products being labelled as containing beef (row meat and various prepared meat products such as lasagne, spaghetti Bolognese, chili con carne, moussaka, etc.) were substituted with cheaper horse meat 1.|||
|China, 2014||Donkey meat||Substitution||Deceiving practice||Fox meat||Donkey meat sold at some outlets in China was recalled after tests showed the products contained fox meat 1.|||
|Italy, 2017||Wild boar and deer meat sausages||Substitution||Deceiving practice||Pig meat sausages||Two companies in Puglia were selling wild boar and deer meat sausages actually made from pig meat to gain profit 1.|||
|Mexico, 2017||Ground beef||Adulteration Substitution||Deceiving practice||Ground horsemeat||DNA testing carried out by the School of Veterinary Medicine of Mexico City revealed that 10% of ground beef products contained horsemeat. The majority of vendors claimed that they were not aware of this practice 1.|||
|Spain, 2017||Beef burgers||Adulteration, Substitution||Deceiving practice||Pig meat, soy and bread||A frozen products company has been accused of adding pig meat, soy, and bread to their beef burgers and meatballs. The fraud was discovered by a dismissed employee 1.|||
|Deceiving practice in UK||Chicken meat contaminated with Salmonella||Some 1400 tons of chicken meat infested with Salmonella and originating from Brazil was stopped at the UK border and shipped back to Brazil, where it was later sold as processed meat. The practice is allowed in Brazil because the heat treatment applied during the processing of the meat kills the bacteria. The operation took place between April 2017 and November 2018 1.|||
|Spain, 2018||Ham||Adulteration Tampering||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Ham with expired date||More than 10,000 hams with expired dates were discovered in rented containers. The hams were relabelled to extend their expiry date and to resell 1,2.|||
|Lamb||Substitution||Deceiving practice||Beef||A restaurant was selling grilled beef as lamb. The fraud was discovered when a Trading Standards Officer who bought the meat sent it for analysis 1.|||
|Lamb||Substitution||Deceiving practice||Mutton||In an Indian restaurant, the inspectors found that lamb dishes (animal < 12 months old) were actually made from mutton (older animal) 1.|||
|France, 2019||Chicken meat||Adulteration|
|Deceiving practice||Water||In order to increase the weight, water was added to chicken meat imported from Denmark 1.|||
|France, 2019||Meat burgers||Adulteration Substitution||Deceiving practice||Fat, skin, starch, and soya||Polish burgers (7 million pieces) sold in France contained fat, skin, starch, and soya, which are not authorized ingredients for this type of product 1.|||
|Europe, 2017||Fresh tuna||Substitution||Deceiving practice||Canned tuna||Tuna was sold as fresh when it should be sold as canned tuna. Tuna can be sold as fresh only if frozen at −18 °C immediately after being caught and kept at that temperature until arrival at destination. Tuna stored in salt water at −9 °C should be canned. Fresh tuna is three times more expensive than canned 1.|||
|Italy, 2017||Red tuna|
|Substitution||Deceiving practice||Yellowfin tuna|
|A well-known hotel suspected of selling low-quality fish species instead of the higher-quality fishes: red tuna was replaced by yellowfin tuna and grouper was replaced by Nile perch 1.|||
|Canada, 2018||Fish||Substitution Mislabelling||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Other fish species||Authorities in Canada reported that more than 40% of fish samples were replaced with cheaper ones, such as tilapia or Japanese amberjack, which can trigger health effects. More mislabelling of fish species was found in restaurants (55%) than in retailers (22%) 1.|||
|China, 2018||Xue Yu fish||Substitution||Deceiving practice||Other fish species||DNA testing showed that 58% of Chinese premium fish sold as Xue Yu (Mandarin for “Cod”, Gadidae family) belonged to other fish species 1.|||
|Italy, 2018||Wild caught fish||Substitution|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Farmed fish||One hundred kilos of sea bass farmed in Greece was intended to be sold at a much higher price to restaurants and fish markets as wild-caught in the Mediterranean 1.|||
|USA, 2018||Atlantic blue crab||Substitution|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Crab||Due to decreases in catches of the genuine Atlantic blue crab that could not meet consumers’ demand, a food processing company sold crab from Asia, and Central and South America labelled as more expensive Atlantic blue crab 1.|||
|USA, 2018||High quality fish||Substitution/Tampering Mislabelling||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Low quality fish||In New York supermarkets, more than 85% of high-quality and expensive fish species were mislabelled. The most mislabelled species included lemon sole, red snapper, and “wild” salmon 1.|||
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Squid||Food processing and distribution companies in Long Island have been selling cheaper squid falsely labelled as expensive octopus 1.|||
|Mexico, 2020||Fish||Adulteration Substitution/Dilution/Tampering|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Glazed fish||To prevent dehydration of the surface, a thin layer of ice can be added on frozen fish (glazing). In case of glazing, water content in the fish can be up to 57% (versus 30% of average water content in frozen fish without glazing). Glazed fish sold at retailers has no labels indicating glazing 1.|||
|Canada, 2017||Kosher cheese||Mislabelling||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Non-kosher cheese||A company from Toronto falsified certificates and sold fake kosher cheese to Jewish summer camps in 2015 1.|||
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Water||A Swiss farmer was accused of diluting milk with water. The dairy company which bought the milk sued the farmer who made a profit of 41,000 EUR and asked for compensation of 120,000 EUR 1.|||
All types of fraud
|Deceiving practice||No animal proteins||Milk powder without animal protein is a common problem in African countries such as Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana. It has also been stated that 50% of imported goods in Tanzania, including food, are fake 1.|||
|Colombia, 2019||Milk||Adulteration Substitution||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Whey||Milk adulterated with whey was sold daily in Colombia 1.|||
|Italia, 2019||Cheese||Tampering/Mislabelling||Mislabelling, Deceiving practice||Expired date||Three tons of cheese were seized due to expired date and storing under adverse conditions 1,2.|||
|Vanilla ice cream||Substitution/Mislabelling|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Ingredients other than vanilla||An ice cream producing company was accused of selling ice cream labelled as vanilla ice cream that contained neither vanilla nor vanilla extract. The vanilla flavor was likely obtained from ingredients other than vanilla 1.|||
|Denmark, 2017||Oregano||Adulteration Dilution||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Ground dry leaves from other plants||In 4 out of 10 samples tested by the consumer association, pure oregano contained ground dry leaves from olive or myrtle trees 1.|||
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Fibers from other plants||The Food Standards Agency detected fibres from other plants in saffron originating from Spain. As a consequence, almost 90 kg of saffron was seized in a factory in Alicante 1.|||
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Expired date||More than 200 tons of tomato juice was removed from the market when it was discovered that the producer falsely prolonged the shelf life of jarred tomato juice by replacing the expiry date label 1,2.|||
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Expired date||Sixteen tonnes of frozen foods have been seized after discovering that the expiry date was relabelled for selling despite having expired several years ago 1.|||
|Canada, 2018||Maple syrup||Adulteration Tampering Dilution||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Table (sugar) syrup||USA customs discovered that maple syrup from Quebec was diluted with cheaper table (sugar) syrup 1.|||
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Expired date||Almost 50,000 eggs have been relabelled to extend their expiry date to increase the durability of the product 1,2,3.|||
|Italia, 2019||Pesto sauce||Tampering/Mislabelling||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Frozen ingredients||Six hundred kg of pesto sauce was mislabelled to mask the origin and quality. The pesto was made with frozen ingredients 1,2.|||
All types of fraud
|Deceiving practice||Rice husk||Rice husk sold as high-quality rice is a common problem in African countries such as Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana. It has also been stated that 50% of imported goods in Tanzania, including food, are fake 1.|||
|High quality rice||Substitution|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Low quality rice||In 2018, more than 40% of the high-quality rice controlled on the Brazilian market was mixed with lower quality rice 1.|||
|India, 2020||Protein powder||Adulteration Tampering Counterfeiting||Mislabelling Deceiving practice Ingredients replacement||Steroids||A plant was manufacturing hundreds of kilograms of fake protein powder, mislabelled as produced by top USA or EU companies. The supplements contained banned steroids.|||
|Country, Year||Food||Unauthorized Food Manipulation *||Adulterants||Case||Reference|
|Fraud Type (USA), FDA 401, 403||Fraud Type (EU), 178/02 article 8|
|France, 2018||Corsican PDO honey||Adulteration, |
Misleading information (according to Manning & Soon (2014))
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Chestnut honey||A honey producer from Corsica mixed 600 kg of imported chestnut honey with its own honey produced in Corsica and sold it as “AOP miel de Corse”, which is, beside the “Miel de sapin des Vosges”, the only PDO (protected designation of origins) honey in France 1.|||
|New Zealand, 2019||Manuka honey||Adulteration, |
Misleading information (according to Manning & Soon (2014))
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Methylglyoxal and dihydroxyacetone||A honey producer was adding methylglyoxal and dihydroxyacetone to 14 tons of honey during its processing to imitate premium-quality manuka honey, in which both compounds are naturally present 1.|||
|Wine, vinegar, and alcoholic drinks|
|Trinidadian rum, 2016||Trinidadian rum||Substitution|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Cuban and South American rum||A bulk rum from Cuba and South America was falsely labelled as “100% Trinidadian rum” and sold to export markets 1.|||
|Canada, 2018||“Irish cream”||Substitution Counterfeit|
Misleading information (according to Manning & Soon (2014))
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Cream liquors||Cream liquors produced in Canada are frequently sold as “Irish cream”, genuine Irish cream liquor with PGI label 1.|||
|Italy, 2019||PGI wine||Adulteration Substitution|
|Lower quality wine||Lower-quality wine labelled as PGI wine from Tuscany (11,000 bottles) was seized by the Italian authorities 1.|||
|Italy, 2019||Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi wines||Adulteration Substitution|
|Low quality wine||A total of 15,000 litres of wine was falsely labelled as Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. The fraud was discovered because of its low market prices 1.|||
|Italy, 2019||Grapes for Aceto di Modena||Substitution,|
|Other types of grapes||Italian authorities have seized 9000 tons of crushed grapes which did not fulfil requirements for producing Aceto di Modena. This PDO product can only be produced with seven grape varieties sourced in certain areas of Italy. The fraud was probably a consequence of the low grape production rate in Italy in 2018 1.|||
|New Zeeland, 2019||Waipara and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc vintage wines||Adulteration Substitution Counterfeit||Mislabelling|
|Low quality wine||A winery provided incorrect label on geographical origin and vintage for tens of thousands of bottles of wine. The fraud was related to 2011, 2012, and 2013 Waipara and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc vintages 1.|||
|Spain, 2019||Wine||Substitution, Counterfeit|
Tampering (according to Spink & Moyer (2011))
|Low quality wine||A wine company was selling low- to medium-quality wine under the label El Bierzo, a PDO wine from the Spanish province of León. The wine was sold all over the world 1.|||
|Italy, 2020||Organic wine||Substitution|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Low quality wine||More than 10 million litres of low-quality wine were seized because they were sold as organic for a higher price 1.|||
|Italy, 2020||PDO, PGI, and organic wines||Substitution|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Low quality wine||More than one million litres of wine were seized because they were wrongly labelled as PDO, PGI (Protected Geographical Indications), and organic 1.|||
|Italy, 2020||Prosecco and pinot grigio||Substitution|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Low quality wine||A wine company produced more than 35 million bottles of wine by mixing low-quality wine with wine that fulfilled the legislative requirements and sold them as prosecco and pinot grigio 1.|||
|Italy, 2020||Tuscany wine||Substitution Tampering Counterfeiting||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Sicily wine||Common wine from Sicily was sold as a prestigious wine with Geographical Indication from Tuscany. The bottles were imported from Turkey, whereas labels, corks, wooden boxes, and papers were produced in Bulgaria. The falsified bottles were 70% cheaper than the original wine.|||
|United Kingdom, 2017||Halal lamb||Substitution,|
Misleading information (according to Manning & Soon (2014))
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Non-halal turkey||DNA testing confirmed that four representatives of a meat company were selling non-halal turkey labelled as halal lamb between 2013 and 2014 1.|||
|Belgium, 2018||Farmed chicken||Substitution|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Organic chicken||The company that provides most of the poultry sold by butchers in province of Antwerp was selling farmed poultry meat labelled as organic 1.|||
|Belgium, 2019||Organic meat||Substitution|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Conventionally produced meat||Meat conventionally produced in The Netherlands was labelled and sold as organic meat in Belgium and Germany 1.|||
|Italy, 2019||Japanese Kobe beef||Substitution|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Regular beef||Regular beef was labelled and sold as Japanese Kobe beef 1.|||
|Italy, 2019||Parma and San Daniele hams||Mislabelling|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Hams with higher moisture content||About 35% of the Parma and San Daniele hams are produced from traditionally used pigs crossed with faster growing races. This meat with higher moisture content does not fulfil the requirements needed for PDO label 1.|||
|Spain, 2019||Iberian ham||Mislabelling Substitution|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Other sort of ham||Iberian ham (pata negra) is produced from Iberian pigs fed with acorns during October–March. Taking into account the low acorn harvest in 2016/2017 that would be enough to feed 500,000 pigs, registration of over than 700,000 Iberian pigs pointed to probable food fraud 1.|||
|Italy, 2019||Organic eggs||Mislabelling|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Farmed eggs||Eggs produced by hens kept in cages were labelled and sold as organic. To label eggs as organic, hens must spend at least one-third of their lives outdoors according to EU legislation 1.|||
|Portugal, 2020||Organic eggs||Mislabelling|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Farmed eggs||Almost 50,000 farmed eggs were seized because they were labelled as produced by hens grown in open air 1.|||
|Italy, 2019||PGI cheese||Mislabelling Substitution|
Misleading information (according to Manning & Soon (2014))
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Other types of cheese||Three tons of cheese labelled as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) product without fulfilling the requirements were seized 1.|||
|Italy, 2019||Pesto sauce||Mislabelling||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||A total of 600 kg of pesto sauce was found with falsified labels that masked the origin 1.|||
|Italy, 2017||Buffalo milk||Mislabelling Substitution|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Cow milk||Dairy companies used cow’s milk instead of buffalo’s milk, which is obligatory for the production of the Mozzarella di Bufala Campana (PDO) 1.|||
|Italy, 2018||Tropea onion||Mislabelling Substitution|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Onion||Twenty-three tons of onions labelled as Tropea onions (a sweet red onion variety protected by a PGI label) were seized. The onion was falsely labelled and actually produced in other regions 1.|||
|Italy, 2017||Organic fruit and vegetables||Mislabelling Substitution||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Conventionally produced fruit and vegetables||Fruits and vegetables were sold (in France, Germany, and UK) as organic despite being conventionally cultivated using pesticides. The fraud was estimated at one million euros since suspected farms received EU funds for organic production 1.|||
|Italy, 2018||Several types of food||Mislabelling Substitution|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Different origin||Eleven tons of different types of food were seized due to mislabelling. The products labelled as Prosciuto di Parma and Mozzarella di Bufala Campana had different origins, and some other products (tomatoes and different kinds of meat) lacked traceability documentation 1.|||
|USA, 2018||Organic corn and soya||Mislabelling|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Non-organic corn and soybeans||Three US farmers were selling non-organic corn and soybeans as organic. The fraud remained undetected for eight years because the farmers could hire their own control bodies who did the testing that differentiated organic from conventional food in exceptional cases only 1.|||
|Italy, 2018||Organic food||Mislabelling|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Non-organic food||Conventionally produced eggs, oranges, aromatic herbs, pasta, and fish were falsely labelled and sold as organic 1.|||
|Italy, 2017||100% Arabica coffee||Mislabelling Substitution|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Non-Arabica coffee||A coffee reseller mixed Guatemalan coffee with other coffee from Vietnam and Uganda and labelled its product as 100% Arabica from Guatemala. The financial authorities seized 110,000 boxes of the suspected coffee with a total value of 500,000 EUR 1.|||
|World, 2018||Coffee Arabica||Mislabelling Substitution|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Coffee Robusta||Analyses revealed that 10% of the coffee samples tested contained from 1.6% to more than 21% of coffee Robusta although they were labelled as the more expensive coffee Arabica 1.|||
|Country, Year||Food||Unauthorized Food Manipulation *||Adulterants||Case||Reference|
|Fraud Type (USA):|
(a) FDA 401, 403
(b) Spink & Moyer (2011)
(c) Manning & Soon (2016)
|Fraud Type (EU) 178/02, article8|
|Honey combs||Adulteration Substitution||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Paraffin, stearin||Beeswax intended for use as a base for honey combs was adulterated with paraffin and stearin in order to make a profit. Apart from risks for bee health related to the presence of stearin and paraffin in beeswax, consumers can eat these harmful adulterants incorporated in honey combs 1,2.|||
|Cooking oil||Adulteration Substitution||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Recycled cooking oil||In China, potentially cancerogenic recycled cooking oil is often collected from sewage drains and gutters behind cooking facilities and then sold to restaurants 1,2,3.|||
|Morocco, 2018||Olive oil||Adulteration|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Olive-oil-like capsules||Unknown toxic substances in capsules were mixed with water for the unauthorized production of olive oil and sold as olive oil in several regions of Morocco 1,2,3.|||
|Olive oil||Adulteration Tampering Substitution||Mislabelling|
|Lampante olive oil||According to the Brazilian authorities, 64% of analysed samples of olive oil in the last two years were mislabelled. Some of the oils labelled as olive oil (15%) contained lampante olive oil (intended for use in lamps) that is not fit for human consumption 1,2,3.|||
|High quality olive oil||Adulteration Substitution||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Low grade palm oil||A food-processing company was accused of falsely labelling low-grade palm oil and other cheap oils as high quality olive oil. These blends also contained artificial colorants that were harmful to human health 1,2,3.|||
|Becherovka and other liquors||Adulteration Counterfeiting Mislabelling||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Methanol||Due to methanol poisoning, 41 people died and many more were admitted to hospital. The sources of the methanol were liquors, so the government banned the sale of liquors with more than 20% alcohol to prevent further health damage 1,2,3.|||
|Rice wine||Adulteration Counterfeiting Mislabelling||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Methanol||After drinking rice wine contaminated by methanol, 49 people died and more than 300 people were hospitalized 1,2,3.|||
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Methanol||Thirty-eight people died after drinking vodka made from methanol 1,2,3.|||
|India, 2017||Alcohol||Adulteration Substitution||Deceiving practice||Methanol, antifreeze||At least twelve people died after consuming illegally produced alcohol that contained toxic substances (methanol and antifreeze agent) added to increase alcohol strength 1,2,3.|||
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Synthetic aromas||A total of 3000 hectoliters of poor-quality synthetic wine aromas were added to deceive consumers 1.|||
|Belgium, 2020||Red wine||Adulteration Counterfeiting Mislabelling||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||MDMA,|
|A woman died after drinking red wine Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 that contained high levels of the amphetamine-like stimulants MDMA (ecstasy) and MDA. The counterfeited wine had a brown cork, while genuine wine (brand Black & Bianco) has a black cork 1,2,3.|||
|Kuwait, 2020||Alcoholic drink||Adulteration|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice Murder||Alcohol for perfume production||Four people died and six were in critical condition in Kuwait after drinking alcoholic beverages with alcohol intended for perfumes, not for producing alcoholic beverages 1,2,3.|||
|Mexico and Dominican Republic, 2020||Alcoholic drink||Adulteration|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice Murder||Methanol||In Mexico and the Dominican Republic, 105 and 177 people, respectively, died after drinking fraudulently produced alcoholic drinks that contained methanol 1,2,3.|||
|Fresh meat||Adulteration Dilution Mislabelling||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Non-fresh meat, meat contaminated with Salmonella||A huge food fraud was discovered in the Brazilian meat sector. Several malpractices were carried out: intentional distribution of meat contaminated with Salmonella, adding chemicals to make meat look fresh, adding water to increase weight, adding soy to increase protein content. Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of beef and chicken, had exportation losses corresponding to 0.2% of its GDP 1,2,3.|||
|Chicken meat||Simulation (illegitimate product looks as legitimate)||Deceiving practice||Chicken meat contaminated with Salmonella||A few official control laboratories were accused of replacing samples of meat contaminated with Salmonella with meat samples that fulfilled the legislative criteria. In this way, the contaminated meat had health certificates required for export to the EU. The EU banned entries of the affected lots of frozen chicken meat 1,2,3.|||
|Non-fresh meat||Some butchers treated meat with sodium metabisulfite that give meat a red color for weeks. This chemical can induce allergic reactions to consumers who are sensitive to sulfites 1,2,3.|||
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Meat contaminated with Salmonella||Fifty tons of meat that posed a risk to human health were seized. The meat was intended to be sold to schools, restaurants, and hotels. Several illicit practices were discovered: mislabelling, defrosting of the meat by adding warm water, and the addition of viscera and pork blood to increase its weight. Some of the seized meat expired more than three years earlier and was contaminated with Salmonella 1,2,3.|||
|Portugal, 2019||Fresh meat||Adulteration|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Non-fresh meat||Many analysed meat samples contained sulphite, a forbidden substance added to meat to enhance appearance by inhibiting discoloration 1,2.|
|Netherlands, 2016||Eggs||Adulteration Tampering Unauthorized chicken treatment||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Eggs contaminated with fipronil||The presence of fipronil residues in eggs was probably caused by the illegal use of the chemical on farms in the Netherlands to control red mites in food-producing animals (chickens). This illegal activity has resulted in fipronil detected in eggs and chicken meat. The measured levels in some samples of eggs exceeded EU limits. If consumed in large quantities, fipronil is nephrotoxic and hepatotoxic 1,2.|||
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Expired contaminated eggs||Large distributors of eggs recalled its eggs because they contained antiprotozoal agent nicarbazin, which is forbidden in Taiwan. The company was accused for mislabelling the recalled eggs to extend expiry dates with the intention of selling to restaurants, hotels, and bakeries 1,2.|||
|Austria, 2020||Eggs||Adulteration||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Rotten eggs||A big distributor was accused of mixing into their products rotten eggs stored for several months, some of them contaminated with chicken feces 1,2.|||
|Argentina, Brazil 2017||Shrimps||Adulteration|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Sodium tripolyphosphate||Investigators seized 400 kg of the shrimps treated with sodium tripolyphosphate, a forbidden chemical used to retain water and artificially increase the weight of the product 1,2.|||
|Europe, 2017||Fresh tuna||Adulteration Tampering||Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Non-fresh tuna|
nitrites/nitrates, carbon monoxide
|During the EU-coordinated action Europol OPSON VII, it was discovered that tuna intended for canning was sold as fresh. Tuna was treated with chemical substances such as nitrites/nitrates, additives containing high level of nitrites, and/or carbon monoxide that altered its color to give the impression of its freshness. In total, more than 51 tons of tuna were seized and more than 380 samples were taken. Consequently, an increased number of scombroid poisonings (165 cases in 2017) was reported after the ingestion of tuna with high histamine levels due to poor quality. Additionally, the used nitrites may have led to formation of cancerogenic nitrosamines 1,2,3.|||
|France, 2018||Fish (fresh tuna)||Adulteration|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Salt, potassium lactate, potassium acetate, citric acid, polyphosphate, nitrates, nitrites, ascorbic acid||French authorities received a report that, apart from adding water to increase fish weight up to 30%, salt, potassium lactate, potassium acetate, citric acid, and polyphosphate were also added for retaining water. To give tuna a red color, carcinogenic nitrates and nitrites, as well as ascorbic acid were also added 1,2.|||
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Contaminated water, sodium hydroxide, detergents, starch, sugar, urea||According to the findings of Indian authorities, 30% of the milk sold in India is adulterated. Adding contaminated water to increase the volume can have implications for consumers’ health. Sodium hydroxide, detergents, starch, sugar, and urea have also been detected in the adulterated milk 1,2.|||
|India, 2017||Milk||Adulteration Substitution||Deceiving practice||Glucose and detergents||The authorities discovered 1000 litres of the so-called dairy product “synthetic milk” that contained glucose and detergents 1,2.|||
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Spoiled milk treated with caustic soda||It was discovered that spoiled milk was treated with caustic soda in the production of Mozzarella di Bufala Campana. This chemical was used to mask acidification and aging 1,2.|||
|Brazil, 2018||Milk powder||Mislabelling|
|Mislabelling Deceiving practice||Sugars and other non-authorized substances||During the production of milk powder, sugars and other non-authorized substances were added 1,2.|||
|Palm oil, detergent, and other chemicals||The Indian authorities have dismantled a unit producing fraudulent milk not fit for human consumption. The owners of the factory transformed 5000 litres of milk into 15,000–20,000 litres by adding substances such as palm oil, detergent, and other chemicals, which was then distributed in the area 1,2.|||
|Detergent, shampoo, urea, washing powder, and formaldehyde||Some producers of milk in Pakistan sold milk adulterated with detergent, shampoo, urea, washing powder, and formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is carcinogenic and used as a preservative. Pakistan is the fifth largest producer of milk in the world 1,2,3.|||
|Detergent, urea, synthetic milk powder||Milk adulterated with detergent powder, urea fertilizer and synthetic milk powder caused severe diseases affecting the kidneys, stomach, and intestine 1,2,3.|||
|India, 2018||Spices||Adulteration |
|Grass, rice husk, wheat, salt, dyes||Spices such as turmeric, chili powder, fennel, and coriander were mixed in spice production plants with adulterants like grass, rice husk, wheat, or salt. These substances were dyed with unauthorized colors and used to dilute the spices 1,2.|||
|Wood dust, red brick powder, corn flour, sodium sulfoxylate||The company was selling adulterated spices: wood dust as coriander powder, red brick powder as red chili powder, corn flour as gram (chickpea) flour, and sodium sulfoxylate as jaggery (unrefined sugar made from sugar cane or palm) 1,2,3.|||
|Rice husk and different colorants||Rice husk was added to chili powder, and different colorants were used to increase the color of the spices. In the same factory, 1700 kg of rice and 16 kg of colorants were seized 1,2.|||
|Spain, 2019||Spices (saffron)||Adulteration|
|Plant extracts, chemical reagents||In a production plant, genuine saffron was mixed with parts of the plant not considered food, as well as with extracts from other plants and chemical reagents 1,2.|||
|USA, 2019||Spices (curcuma)||Adulteration||Deceiving practice||Lead chromate||Stanford University detected lead chromate in curcuma that was produced in Bangladesh. Some samples contained more than 500 times the maximum lead amount allowed in US 1,2,3.|||
|Nonfood-grade colorants||Chili powder was mixed with dangerous substances such as non-food-grade colorants and other chemicals 1,2.|||
|Authorities seized more than two tons of black tea adulterated with colors and bark 1.|||
|Bangladesh, 2018||Fruit juice||Adulteration|
|Chemicals||A factory produced fruit juice that did not contain any fruits and contained hazardous chemical substances 1,2.|||
|Sulphur dioxide||About 850 kg of panela (unrefined whole cane sugar) was adulterated with sulphur dioxide to look fresher. The levels of adulterants were high enough to present a risk for consumers’ health 1,2.|||
|A batch of 1.5 tons of tea was adulterated with coloring agents extracted from coal tar to make the prepared tea to look stronger and more appealing. It makes the prepared tea appear stronger, and thus more easily sold. In the same city, 1620 kg of jaggery (solidified palm sugar) were adulterated with dyes (sodium hydrosulphide) to look more appealing 1,2.|||
|Kenya, 2018||Brown sugar||Adulteration|
|Copper, mercury||Illegally imported Brazilian brown sugar was confiscated due to contaminations with copper and mercury, which are harmful to consumers. It was intended for transport to sugar factories in Kenya for further refining 1,2,3.|||
|Illegal dyes||Four hundred kg of snacks (e.g., chips, samosas, tomato sticks, Szechuan sticks) were confiscated due to the presence of illegal dyes 1,2.|||
|Sweet potatoes, synthetic resin, fragrance||The plastic rice entered the national market. This product is made by mixing sweet potatoes and synthetic resin formed into “grains”, which are then sprayed with a fragrance to mimic the smell of Wuchang rice 1,2,3.|||
|China, 2011||Bean sprouts||Adulteration|
|Sodium nitrite, urea, antibiotics, 6-benzyladenine||Bean sprouts were treated with banned food additives (sodium nitrite, urea, antibiotics, and a plant hormone, 6-benzyladenine) to speed up growth and make vegetables look shinier 1,2.|||
|China, 2011||Chinese cabbage||Adulteration||Mislabelling|
|Formaldehyde||Vegetable distributors were discovered spraying a carcinogenic formaldehyde solution on Chinese cabbage to keep the products fresh during long transport to faraway markets 1,2,3.|||
|Lebanon, 2016||Pickled turnips||Adulteration||Mislabelling|
|Rhodamine B||Rhodamine B, a dye not permitted in food, was added to pickled turnips to accelerate the coloring process and enhance/preserve the coloring. Consumers ingest unauthorized colors, which is potentially both genotoxic and carcinogenic 1,2,3.|||
|Italy, 2019||Mushrooms (truffles)||Adulteration|
|Bismethylthiomethane||Fifty companies were accused of selling “al tartufo” processed food online, in which the truffles were replaced by the synthetic aroma compound bismethylthiomethane (truffle sulphide) 1.|||
|Peanuts||Georgian food companies were accused of mixing peanuts with hazelnuts and selling it as hazelnut for economic gain. These low-quality nut products were exported to Germany, where consumers complained after allergic reactions 1,2.|||
4. Laboratory Techniques for Food Fraud Detection
4.1. Chromatographic Methods
4.2. Spectroscopic Analysis
4.3. Stable Isotope Analysis
4.4. Molecular Methods
4.5. Immunological Methods
5. Preventive Measures
Food Fraud Preventive Activities
6. Response to Food Accidents and Difficulties in Controlling Fraud
“1. If a FBO considers or has reason to believe that a food which it has imported, produced, processed, manufactured or distributed is not in compliance with the food safety requirements, it shall immediately initiate procedures to withdraw the food in question from the market where the food has left the immediate control of that initial food business operator and inform the competent authorities thereof. Where the product may have reached the consumer, the operator shall effectively and accurately inform the consumers of the reason for its withdrawal, and if necessary, recall from consumers products already supplied to them when other measures are not sufficient to achieve a high level of health protection.
2. FBOs responsible for retail or distribution activities which do not affect the packaging, labelling, safety or integrity of the food shall, within the limits of its respective activities, initiate procedures to withdraw from the market products not in compliance with the food-safety requirements and shall participate in contributing to the safety of the food by passing on relevant information necessary to trace a food, cooperating in the action taken by producers, processors, manufacturers and/or the competent authorities.
3. The FBO shall immediately inform the competent authorities if it considers or has reason to believe that a food which it has placed on the market may be injurious to human health. Operators shall inform the competent authorities of the action taken to prevent risks to the final consumer and shall not prevent or discourage any person from cooperating, in accordance with national law and legal practice, with the competent authorities, where this may prevent, reduce or eliminate a risk arising from a food.
4. The FBO shall collaborate with the competent authorities on action taken to avoid or reduce risks posed by a food which they supply or have supplied (Reg (EC) 178/2002).”
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Jurica, K.; Brčić Karačonji, I.; Lasić, D.; Bursać Kovačević, D.; Putnik, P. Unauthorized Food Manipulation as a Criminal Offense: Food Authenticity, Legal Frameworks, Analytical Tools and Cases. Foods 2021, 10, 2570. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10112570
Jurica K, Brčić Karačonji I, Lasić D, Bursać Kovačević D, Putnik P. Unauthorized Food Manipulation as a Criminal Offense: Food Authenticity, Legal Frameworks, Analytical Tools and Cases. Foods. 2021; 10(11):2570. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10112570Chicago/Turabian Style
Jurica, Karlo, Irena Brčić Karačonji, Dario Lasić, Danijela Bursać Kovačević, and Predrag Putnik. 2021. "Unauthorized Food Manipulation as a Criminal Offense: Food Authenticity, Legal Frameworks, Analytical Tools and Cases" Foods 10, no. 11: 2570. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10112570