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Food Authenticity

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What Does Authenticity Mean?

Food is considered authentic or genuine if the product or its contents correspond to the original condition and the information on the label. Authentic goods are free from adulteration, especially with regard to composition, nature and varietal purity, geographical origin and manufacturing method. In the course of the detection of numerous food fraud cases by Interpol, the authenticity of food as an important quality characteristic has become even more important. Authenticity testing provides an opportunity to detect deception and food fraud attempts.

What is Food Fraud?

Placing food on the market with the aim to gain a financial or economic advantage by intentional deception of consumers is considered as food fraud (https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/food-fraud_en).

The legal basis to combat food fraud is Article 8 of Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002 (the “General EU Food Law”):

Protection of Consumers' Interests
Food law shall aim at the protection of the interests of consumers and shall provide a basis for consumers to make informed choices in relation to the foods they consume. It shall aim at the prevention of:
(a) fraudulent or deceptive practices
(b) the adulteration of food
(c) any other practices which may mislead the consumer

For some important food products (e.g. olive oil, wine, fruit juices and honey), specific regulations and guidelines exist to verify the authenticity of the product. However, for many other food items such regulations and guidelines do not exist so far. This leaves room for interpretation and points of view of the European Member States or Third Countries importing food into the EU on this topic can differ. Therefore, the assessing the authenticity of food to prevent food fraud as well as ensuring the compliance with legal regulations is a real challenge.

High-priced products and popular brands as well as scarce or in bulk used raw materials are particularly susceptible to this deliberate adulteration.

Unintended Adulteration

Adulterations do not always happen in bad faith: They can also occur unintentionally, e.g. through contamination during the manufacturing process or through spoilage. Thus, all products should be inspected regularly as part of quality assurance measures. 

Authenticity tests can reveal different types of adulteration.

Authenticity Tests for Products and Product Properties

Authenticity testing is the analytical authenticity verification of food and feed with regard to its composition, purity, origin and production. A distinction is made between targeted and non-target (profiling / fingerprinting) methods.

Using targeted methods, the food or feed sample is examined for a very specific adulteration which will either be confirmed or refuted.

In case of non-targeted methods, the entire profile or specific characteristics of a food or feed sample are determined as a so-called physical-chemical or molecular fingerprint which will be compared with other reference data from a previously created database. If the new profile image matches the reference profile stored in the database, the sample is authentic.

Selected Methods for Authenticity Testing

  • Physical-chemical methods
    Composition and purity testing; identification and quantification of defined compounds
  • Molecular biology        
    Identification of species, varieties, etc.
  • Stable isotope analysis
    Origin analysis
  • Fingerprinting / profiling
    Comparison of the sample profile/spectrum with the reference material

Analytical authentication can be difficult, especially for processed products. Some questions cannot be answered at all or only in combination with other measures.

We support you with vulnerability and risk analyses to work out the proper and economically reasonable analysis methods for you. We are also happy to advise you on the implementation of the standards required by IFS Food 6.1.

Benefit from our Experience

Selected products and product features in focus:

  • olive oil
  • honey
  • spices
  • fish and seafood
  • meat and meat products
  • fruit juice and fruit juice concentrates
  • wine
  • dairy products (specialities)
  • egg and egg powder
  • rice
  • organic products
  • labelling vegan and vegetarian
  • non-GMO labelling

Your needs refer to another product? For further information and advice on risk analysis and authenticity testing, please contact your personal account manager or our expert, Mr Jörg Lickfett.  We will be happy to advise you.

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