The analytical determination of geographical origin is based on a
non-targeted analysis as there is not just one single marker substance
to be identified but an entire “fingerprint” of a coffee sample. So the
analysis is a completely different approach than for example the analysis
of a single marker, like 16-O-Methylcafestol. For the non-targeted
analysis it is necessary to establish a database of authentic samples of
verified origin first. In the case of determination of geographical origin
of coffee many coffees with a known origin have to be analysed.
Due to the high amount of data, an extensive statistical evaluation has
to be applied. In the case of determination of geographical origin of
coffee by NMR analysis, data is interpreted by Principal Component
Analysis (PCA). Figure 3 shows that using this statistical tool certain
origins can already be distinguished.
Especially if the price for a particular origin increases due to increased
demand, or crop loss, the risk for counterfeit regarding a blend of a
cheaper origin is possible. An analysis of the green coffee before roasting
allows the roaster to verify if the product bought has actually been
delivered. By verifying the geographical origin, the roaster can ensure
that he does not become a victim of fraudulent practices.
For coffee in general, as well as for coffee products like instant
coffee, adulteration with roasted grains is possible. Grains are cheaper
than coffee, making the substitution of a share of coffee with cereals
profitable. For ground coffee and especially for soluble coffee it is not
possible to identify by eye if roasted cereals have been added because
the particles are too small to be distinguished resp. for soluble coffee
a coffee brew was produced and then for example freeze dried, which
does not allow a visual distinction.
But how can an addition of cereals to coffee still be identified?
Again non-targeted analysis is the best approach for the detection
of cereals in coffee. Using chicory as an example, Figure 4 shows that
there are differences in NMR profile between chicory and coffee. By
NMR analysis the addition of chicory can be detected.
Why should a producer investigate into food fraud instead of simply
trusting the product that was delivered? In European Union Regulation
(EC) No. 178/2002, Article 8 says:
“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; and
(c) Any other practices which may mislead the consumer.”
Food business operators are responsible for their products and must
confirm that these products comply to the applicable food law. This
responsibility regarding food fraud has already been reflected by many
food standards, like IFS or BRC. Food businesses working under these
standards must perform a Vulnerability Assessment (VACCP) for each
raw material they use. Above mentioned standards also require systems
to be applied, that minimize the risk of fraudulent raw material
to be bought, the so called “prevention strategy”.
How to identify the risk of food fraud
and follow a prevention strategy?
The first question should be: is there a motivation for someone in the
supply chain to perform fraudulent practices? Motivations could be:
- High prices for goods, making it more profitable to blend in
Figure 4: NMR profile of instant coffee and blends with chicory.
- The “increase” of available products if there is a high request,
but low availability.
Business operators should therefore always track price development
of single products and also keep an eye on regional problems like crop
failures or climate crises.
Strict supplier and specification management help to identify food fraud
risks in advance. If an increased risk has been identified, these products
should more frequently be tested for authenticity in laboratory analyses.
In the future more and more tools like food fraud databases to
identify the risk for food fraud will be available. New technologies
like Blockchain and other physical traceability gadgets e.g. DNA-based
tracing or also traceability tags/seals will help to prevent food fraud
and analytical methods for the detection of fraudulent practices will
keep developing and will thus be more and more available in routine
testing. All these tools will help to preserve a good cup of coffee.
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Food Technology Magazine. (Nov. 1, 2018) https://www.ift.org/
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March 09, 2021
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Assistance and Cooperation System, Publications Office of
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accessed March 09, 2021
6 Spink, Moyer, Defining the Public Health Threat of Food Fraud, Journal
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im Kaffee. Erste Ergebnisse: Gehalte in Roh- und Röstkaffees,
Deutsche Lebensmittel-Rundschau 85, 381-384 (1989)
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March 09, 2021, https://decernis.com/solutions/food-fraud-database/,
last accessed March 09, 2021
22 Food profiling/Food fraud