With white pepper fraud on the up, Bia unveils authenticity test

White pepper tends to be more expensive than the black variety, and that has made it a target for fraudsters, according to Northern Ireland-based Bia Analytical.

In recognition of that activity, the spin-out from Queen's University Belfast has just added white pepper to its range of authenticity testing services, intended to help food manufacturers fight fraud and protect their supply chains.

All pepper is produced from the berries (peppercorns) of the same plant – Piper nigrum – but different varieties are produced using different processing techniques. Black pepper is made from cooked and dried unripe peppercorns, while white pepper is made from ripe peppercorn seeds that are soaked in water leading to fermentation.

That extra processing step hikes the price of white pepper, making it a target for economically-motivated adulteration (EMA), according to Bia, generally being bulked up using substances such as husks, skins, spent materials and flour.

The company's newly-launched lab testing service relies on spectroscopy with chemometric analysis testing methods, and pepper joins eight other herbs and spices in its authenticity portfolio, namely oregano, sage, black pepper, turmeric, paprika, ginger, cumin and garlic.

The aim is to extend the product portfolio to 25 models by the end of 2021, with the inclusion of methods for new food groups, according to the company.

While adulteration on the whole is with non-hazardous substances there have been instances in which consumers' heath has been placed at risk by this form of fraud.

Once incident in 2018 – involving black pepper – was discovered in Vietnam. The fraudsters mixed substances such as coffee bean skins and even gravel into black pepper to increase the weight, then coloured the resulting material with a homemade black dye created from the contents of batteries – including toxic substances like manganese dioxide, zinc chloride, and ammonium chloride.

Five people were sent to jail for that offense, according to local news reports.

Image by vwald from Pixabay

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