Food Adulteration Detection: Getting Out of the Lab Using Portable Spectroscopy

Food, Food Manufacturing & Supply Chain, Food Testing, Food Safety & Regulation,
  • Thursday, January 17, 2019

Food fraud is estimated to cost the world economy more than $49 billion per year. The 2013 horse meat scandal alone was reported to cost the UK economy more than £1 billion. The effects of food adulteration reach much further than just these serious economic consequences. The Chinese infant formula scandal, which led to multiple mortalities and hundreds of thousands of babies hospitalized, brought into focus the health implications of economically motivated adulteration. Therefore, stakeholders in the food industry should be stepping up to help eliminate this global problem, not only to protect company brand identity but also to safeguard the well-being of consumers. A key aim of the scientific community should be to arm these stakeholders with the appropriate tools to make economically motivated food adulteration a thing of the past.

New approaches are needed to help tackle food adulteration. Traditional targeted methods are failing to keep up with the actions of fraudsters, who are numerous and are active at multiple points throughout the globalized supply chain. There is now a general movement toward non-targeted methodologies to detect food adulteration. Instead of looking for individual components or analytes, non-targeted methods work by taking a much more holistic approach. In many ways the aim is to model normality for a commodity, then look for differences present in a suspect sample that are outside of this normal. In this way, if a fraudster changes what they are using to adulterate with, the analyst will still be able to detect an anomaly.

Spectroscopy techniques such as FT-IR, NIR and Raman, in combination with chemometric modelling, show huge potential for the non-targeted detection of food adulteration. Using oregano as a model, this webinar will present a multistep approach to address adulteration and give guidance on what is needed to transform academic research into a viable tool to address the concerns of the food industry. Data will be presented showing performance of both laboratory-based and portable devices that could allow decision makers to make informed choices in a timely manner. The concept introduced through the oregano model is readily transferable to help fight economically motivated food adulteration in other foodstuffs.


Dr. Terry McGrath, Research Fellow, The Institute for Global Food Security, Queen’s University Belfast

Dr. McGrath is a Research Fellow in the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast. He is passionate about food fraud and is researching and developing methods to allow the food industry to detect food adulteration in a way that increases efficiency and protects consumers from unsafe food. Terry has been working in food safety and security for more than 20 years. He is currently investigating the use of handheld spectroscopic techniques, in conjunction with chemometric models, to rapidly detect economically motivated adulteration (EMA) outside of a laboratory setup.

Message Presenter

Who Should Attend?

Company/Institution Types:

  • Contract Laboratory
  • Corporate R&D Lab
  • Food/Beverage Processor
  • Food Ingredient Manufacturer/Supplier
  • Government Agency or Lab
  • University Lab

Job Functions:

  • Consultant
  • Food Chemist
  • Food Quality Manager (QA/QC)
  • Food Safety Engineer/Manager
  • Food Scientist
  • Food Technician/Technologist
  • Lab Director/Manager
  • Process Engineer

What You Will Learn

  • An understanding of the need to move from targeted to non-targeted methods in the fight to eliminate food adulteration
  • Concepts involved in a multistep analytical approach to tackle food adulteration
  • Pitfalls with, and recommendations for the development of non-targeted methods for the detection of food adulteration
  • Practical examples of both laboratory-based and portable spectroscopic techniques for the detection of economically motivated adulteration

Xtalks Partner

Ocean Optics

Ocean Optics combines innovative products, systems and integration development capabilities, and applied spectral knowledge to help people solve problems using spectroscopy, imaging and sensing technologies. We offer a comprehensive line of compact spectroscopy products, multispectral sensing solutions and software/algorithm development for safety, quality and authentication applications throughout the food chain.

Ocean’s technologies include chemical sensors; Raman analyzers; UV, Vis, NIR and MIR range instrumentation; sampling accessories; and analytical development software. Components and subassemblies are designed for simple integration into OEM devices and systems. We offer solutions ranging from testing and validation of lab research to the development of customized components and subassemblies as well as the design, manufacture and supply of application specific systems. Ocean Optics sensing components, subsystems and complete solutions are ideal for users ranging from food and agriculture researchers, developers and safety engineers to research scientists in academia, regulatory bodies and industry.

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