Researchers with the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention have published an article discussing the development of a database that compiles reports on food fraud and highlights those ingredients most prone to fraud in the food supply. Jeffrey Moore, et al., “Development and Application of a Database of Food Ingredient Fraud and Economically Motivated Adulteration from 1980 to 2010,” Journal of Food Science, April 2012. The database “provides baseline information and data useful to governments, agencies, and individual companies assessing the risks of specific products produced in specific regions as well as products distributed and sold in other regions.”  

Among other matters, the information collected shows that olive oil, milk, honey, saffron, orange juice, coffee, and apple juice “were the most common targets for adulteration reported in scholarly journals.” They are represented in more than 50 percent of the scholarly records in the database. Other “potentially harmful issues identified include spices diluted with lead chromate and lead tetraoxide, substitution of Chinese star anise with toxic Japanese star anise, and melamine adulteration of high protein content foods.” According to the report, chemometrics, “a multivariate data analysis tool often coupled with data-rich instrumental methods such as infrared spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, or nuclear magnetic resonance,” is a powerful tool to detect adulterants in samples.  

Discussing the utility of the database, the authors observe, “Every node in the supply chain presents an opportunity for food fraud. Each aggregator, shipper, or wholesaler who collects, blends, or repackages can change the identity, purity, and authenticity of the ingredient. Integration of the database information described in this research into supply chain analytics systems is a potential opportunity to help manage food fraud risks. The information in the database provides supply chain managers with a scholarly assessment of vulnerabilities that are often not understood or considered.”

The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention is a non-profit scientific organization that “develops standards to help ensure the identity, quality and purity of food ingredients, dietary supplements and pharmaceuticals.” Its standards are published in the “Food Chemicals Codex.” See U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention News Release, April 5, 2012.