Food fraud prevention guide unveiled by USP

Painting a tomatoThe US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) has published a guideline to help food manufacturers defend against deliberate, economically-motivated adulteration (EMA) of ingredients.

The draft guideline details systems that manufacturers can put in place to identify the ingredients most at risk of fraudulent activity as well as tools to prevent adulterated material being used in products.

Examples of EMA cited in the report include the sale of supposedly pure apple juice that was actually laced with added sugars, colouring and flavourings, Cassia oil adulteration with rosin, and chilli powder adulterated with the colouring Sudan I that was found in Worcestershire sauce sold in the UK.

"The real challenge in preventing EMA is its unpredictable nature, and our guidance represents a leap forward in overcoming this hurdle," said Jeff Moore, senior scientific liaison at USP.

"The output from implementing this tool provides users with a basis for making informed, vulnerability-based decisions on how to deal with EMA within their organisations," he added.

The document - which is intended as an Appendix to US's Food Chemicals Codex - is claimed to be the first of its kind and will be open for comment until March 31, 2015.

The framework described in the guideline "is intended to guide users toward the development of their own fraud management system [focusing on] ingredients that not only carry the most vulnerability but also have the potential for the most detrimental consequences when fraud occurs."

USP notes that it can provide an individual assessment of all the indicators and factors known to contribute to fraud vulnerabilities and impacts, as well as qualitative tools to make sense of the results. 

Contributing factors included in the tool go beyond fraud history and include economic and geopolitical anomalies, audit strategies, and supply chain and supplier characteristics, adds the pharmacopeia.

The guideline is aimed at companies purchasing food ingredients, as well as regulatory authorities, auditors and food safety management scheme owners.

Guidance sections that tailor this general approach to specific ingredient categories such as milk-based food ingredients are planned as future additions to this appendix, said USP.

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