Food fraud forum: listen on demand by Ellie Gadd
June 3, 2015, 13:13
Filed under: Food and Feed | Tags: ,

A panel of four leading experts, including Michael Walker (consultant referee analyst for the Government Chemist Programme) discuss food adulteration, fraud and prevention during a webinar organised by FoodQualityNews.

The Food Fraud Forum, which was broadcast live on 27 May 2015, is available to listen to on demand.   It also featured Dr John Spink, from Michigan State University, Chris Van Gundy, from Keller and Heckman LLP, and Dr Paul Brereton from the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera).

Michael, who was a subject matter expert for Professor Chris Elliott during the Elliott review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks, described the Elliott review process and answered questions on definitions of food fraud (misdescription of food for financial gain), and the prevention of food fraud.

The engaging discussion included questions submitted live by listeners and covered a range of topics, including the risks industry faces throughout the supply chain, from those making the ingredients to the retailer selling the final product.

Around 200 people listened in, many with questions posed in quick-fire fashion to the panellists by Joe Whitworth, a French-based journalist with FoodQualityNews who organised and moderated the forum.

The current issues around the cumin recalls (rescinded in Canada) were touched on, as well as trust and traceability in the supply chain. The panellists agreed fraud had been in the supply chain for a long time, and was here to stay, but gave practical suggestions on how to put barriers in the way to – as John Spink put it – “keep the bad guys out of your business”.


Food allergy: Challenges and developments by Ellie Gadd
May 26, 2015, 11:48
Filed under: Allergies, Food and Feed | Tags:

Michael Walker, consultant referee analyst for the Government Chemist programme, gave a comprehensive talk on food allergies, touching on why food allergies are increasing and what is being done to counter this, during an All Island Environmental Health Forum conference on 21-22 May in Cork.

The conference was organised by the Environmental Health Association of Ireland (EHAI) and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Northern Ireland (CIEH NI).

Michael’s talk was part of the Thursday morning session on ‘Rethinking ‘Safe Food’ chaired by Peter Gaffey, Chairman, EHAI. Following a welcome by Peter and Ursula Walsh Chairman, CIEH NI, the opening address was given by Dr Pamela Byrne, CEO, Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

Anneke Toorop, Policy Officer, European Commission DG Health and Food Safety, gave a keynote speech on intelligence and investigation of food crime in the Netherlands and administrative assistance and cooperation in enforcement at the EU level.

Michael’s talk, entitled ‘Food Allergy, Challenges and developments’, touched on what is known of the underlying immunological basis of food allergy, the comparative risks and the current developments. He described challenges in labelling, catering, and science-based enforcement, including the current controversy on alleged almond contamination of cumin. He discussed ‘thresholds’ and illustrated supply chain security using examples from his recent published study with Hazel Gowland on allergy cases in the UK courts.  

The presentation slides, Food allergy – Challenges and developments, are available to download.

Trainee public analysts attend intensive week-long residential course by Ellie Gadd
April 30, 2015, 10:49
Filed under: Food and Feed | Tags: ,

The annual residential training course, organised for trainee public analysts by the Government Chemist programme, was a huge success with fantastic feedback from the delegates.

The course was held at the University of Reading from 20-24 April and featured a mix of lectures, laboratory practical sessions and interactive exercises over an intensive week-long schedule; it included three 12-hour days.

Some of the delegates are studying for the Mastership in Chemical Analysis (MChemA), the statutory qualification required to practice as a public analyst and several sessions were devoted to demystifying the exam process encouraging other delegates to consider taking the qualification.

Lectures were given by public analysts currently in practice and from experts outside the profession, providing a welcomed opportunity for networking.

Niki Georgousi, and Paul Evans watch Emma Downie setting up the microscope

Niki Georgousi, and Paul Evans watch Emma Downie setting up the microscope

Chris Widdrington working on the microscopy practical exercises

Chris Widdrington working on the microscopy practical exercises

The mycology practical session

The mycology practical session

Jane White MChemA demonstrates microscopy technique to Bharathi Reddy

Jane White MChemA demonstrates microscopy technique to Bharathi Reddy

Niki Georgousi makes careful notes of her mycology specimens

Niki Georgousi makes careful notes of her mycology specimens

Jane White MChemA teaching microscopy

Jane White MChemA teaching microscopy

Dr Alex Kersting speaking on the MChemA exam process and RSC topics

Dr Alex Kersting speaking on the MChemA exam process and RSC topics

All delegates gave excellent feedback stating that the course met their expectations to a high degree.

Our thanks go to the speakers and practical session demonstrators for the care and effort they put in to preparing and delivering their material, and to the technical and administrative staff of the University of Reading for their kind assistance in making the course run smoothly.

Tutors on the course are but modestly rewarded for their careful preparation and authoritative delivery yet return year on year, passing on their expertise to the next generation of official control scientists and providing the UK with a bulwark against unsafe and fraudulent food in the supply chain.

The Food Standards Agency was the main sponsor of the event, with Defra and the Analytical Chemistry Trust Fund also providing financial support. The event was organised by the Government Chemist Programme, which is housed within LGC and funded by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.

Government Chemist conference – knowledge is power by Ellie Gadd

Francis Bacon declared ‘knowledge is power’ in the essay ‘Meditationes Sacrae’ written in 1597. More than 400 years later, Bacon’s declaration of ‘knowledge is power’ still rings true – particularly for the science and innovation work carried out under the Government Chemist programme.

We are committed to sharing the knowledge and expertise we gain through our research under the Government Chemist function and regularly publish advice and guidance.

Last November we held our biennial Government Chemist conference, ‘Beating the cheats:  Quality, safety and authenticity in the food chain’, at the Royal Society in London. Expert speakers outlined methods for “Beating the cheats”, including presentations aimed at sharing the latest cutting edge analytical methods and research developments in the fight against food fraud.

With the help of the Science Media Centre, we held a successful media briefing ahead of the conference where our panel of speakers outlined the major issues that would be presented at the event. The panel also included Dr Frieda Jorgensen, from Public Health England, who was invited to discuss the problem of campylobacter contamination in some supermarket chickens – a topic that had been hitting the headlines.

As a direct result of the briefing, some of the major issues around food authenticity, food safety and food fraud were highlighted in the national media. This included a half page feature on wine fraud in the Sunday Times which discussed the extent of fraud and mislabelling in the UK, and outlined government plans for Britain’s new food-policing unit to target the criminals behind the fraud.

Several national newspapers – including The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph and the Daily Mail – reported on the widespread problem of campylobacter contamination in supermarket fresh chicken.

Selvarani Elahi, Deputy Government Chemist, and Michael Walker, Consultant Referee Analyst for the Government Chemist programme, were interviewed by BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service. Selvarani discussed food fraud, adulteration and water content in frozen poultry and Michael discussed the safety of the supply chain, food fraud and allergen thresholds.

It’s not just through the media that we share information about our research; we also publish news stories and blogs and we even recorded some of the presentations at the Government Chemist conference which have recently been uploaded to the Government Chemist pages on GOV.UK.

So if you want to know more about what we are doing, check out GOV.UK/GovernmentChemist where you can subscribe for Government Chemist updates or alerts.

New Commission Regulation on dioxins and PCBs in foodstuffs by Nick Boley
June 4, 2014, 11:30
Filed under: EU Regulation/Legislation, Food and Feed | Tags: , , , , ,

The European Commission has published a new Regulation (589/2014) which lays down methods of sampling and analysis for the control of levels of dioxins, dioxin-like PCBs and non-dioxin-like PCBs in certain foodstuffs. It also repeals the former Regulation, 252/2012.

The new regulation supports Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 which states maximum levels for non-dioxin-like PCBs, dioxins and furans and for the sum of dioxins, furans and dioxin-like PCBs in certain foodstuffs. It provides detailed sampling protocols for foodstuffs suspected of containing dioxins and PCBs, as well as up-to-date analytical methods to be used both for screening and confirmatory analysis of these highly toxic compounds.

The new methodologies take into account recent advances in analytical measurement technology and quality assurance, and stipulates the performance characteristics of any laboratory method to be used for these measurements.


EFSA Report shows most pesticide levels in foods within permitted limits by Nick Boley
May 22, 2014, 07:56
Filed under: EU Information, Food and Feed | Tags: , ,

The results of the EU-wide testing programme for pesticide residues in foods has been published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The results cover the (then) 27 EU Member States plus Norway and Iceland. The report shows that over 79,000 samples of all different types of food were analysed by national authorities and, of these, 97.5% were below the maximum residue levels (MRLs) set for each pesticide, with the figure for the UK being 99 %. The food type with the highest non-compliance rate in the UK was spinach.

The measurement methods used to conduct these surveys are all validated, accredited procedures carried out by expert laboratories. In case of any dispute over pesticide levels in the United Kingdom, the Government Chemist can act as referee under the terms of the Agriculture Act 1970.

New EU Regulation on sampling, performance criteria and methods for toxins by Nick Boley
May 19, 2014, 09:30
Filed under: EU Regulation/Legislation, Food and Feed | Tags: , , ,

The European Commission has published a new regulation, Commission Regulation 519/2014, which amends Regulation (EC) No 401/2006 regarding sampling of large lots, spices and food supplements, performance criteria for T-2, HT-2 toxin and citrinin and screening methods of analysis.

This is a detailed Regulation, which lays down sampling regimes for the determination of mycotoxins in foods and feeds. It also details the method performance characteristics which should apply for some analytical methods used for the determination of mycotoxins in various food and feed matrices, including detailed statistical protocols which should be followed.

This is a substantial Regulation covering important aspects of sampling and analysis, and should be read by all professionals working in this field.