Mozzarella fraud laid bare by test

Two-thirds of supermarket pizzas, restaurant pizzas labelled as containing ‘buffalo mozzarella’ have been shown to contain mozzarella made wholly or partially from cow’s milk, after a test was developed to distinguish between the two.

Using a mass spectrometry test on the products, scientists at the Quadram Institute in Norwich found a significant number of products ‘containing’ buffalo mozzarella as being mislabelled.

Buffalo milk commands a premium price compared with cow’s milk and is used to make mozzarella cheese. This makes it a target for fraudsters. The analytical test homes in on several distinctive ‘marker’ peptides that due to the amino acid sequence differences, are specifically characteristic of either buffalo or cow.

Professor Kate Kemsley, who led the research, said the test had raised concerns about the prevalence of species mislabelling. ‘ Consumers aren’t the only victims of this type of substitution’. she explained. ‘For most products, buffalo mozzarella is added as discrete pieces, so if it contains milk from mixed animal sources, then the adulteration is likely to have happened earlier in the supply chain’, she concluded.

Irish beef industry sees a catastrophe in a ‘no-deal’ Brexit

As the British House of Commons prepares to vote on the European Union  (EU) withdrawal agreement negotiated by the UK Prime Minister Theresa May, the Irish beef sector has been warning that a no-deal Brexit would cause chaos and dramatically undermine Ireland’s beef exports.

‘Ireland exports 90% of its beef and half of all beef exports go to the UK market. A no-deal Brexit would lead to WTO (World Trade Organisation) tariffs and most probably a very negative movement in exchange rates, so that Irish beef exports to the UK would suddenly be economically unsustainable’, Eddie Punch, general secretary of the Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) stated.

Punch further explained that there was insufficient time to find new international markets at viable prices to replace Ireland’s UK trade and added: ‘ The only solution to avoiding a catastrophe in the short term is to get agreement on some form of emergency intervention buying.’

The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has warned that Irish beef prices have already been falling-now at €0.25 cents/kg below the same period last year. ‘The consensus is that we need an agreement on the May package or alternatively that Article 50 is extended in order to avoid immediate chaos’, Punch concluded.

Food Fraud Update: OPSON VII operation focuses on tuna.

On the 25th of April 2018, Europol/Interpol published the results of the OPSON VII operation in which the EU Food Fraud Network in particular contributed a large amount of data in order to detect up to 51 tonnes of tuna fish intended for canning which was falsely and fraudulently intended to be sold as ‘fresh tuna’.

The tuna in question had been illegally treated with substances that enhance the colour pigmentation leading to a ‘misleading impression’ of it’s freshness. This can represent a serious risk to public health, taking into account that the modification of the initial colour can mask spoilage allowing the development of biogenic amines (histamine) responsible for the so called ‘Scombroid Syndrome’ in humans.

The Justice, Police and Customs Departments of 11 EU countries that include the UK, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and France worked closely with food experts and mobilised units to investigate and ensure the success of this operation. Reports stated that the findings were ‘just the tip of the ice-berg’ and that food passed off as fresh and not authentic is rife throughout the industry.

Finding out that many protein bars have more fat & sugar than a doughnut could tarnish their health halo.

Protein bars are often marketed as a healthy alternative to sugary and fatty snacks, these bars have become a popular choice for hardcore gym goers, health conscious individuals and now anyone who wants a ‘grab and go snack’.

Andy Brownsell, Protectivity made the following comment in late 2017, ‘ Our team have conducted comprehensive research that revealed many of the ‘healthy protein bars’ found out in retail actually have more saturated fat and sugar than people originally thought. Over a third that were tested had more saturated fat than a regular doughnut!’

The research compiled and circulated by Andy and his team and others have also revealed that while protein bars are often associated with the clean eating trend, some have artificial sugars and colour’s along with the alarmingly high amounts of fat and sugar already alluded to.

Food for thought.

Plastic fibres found in tap water around the globe.

Recent tests show that billions of people globally are drinking water contaminated by plastic particles with 83% of samples found to be polluted!

The US had the largest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled at sites including Congress buildings, Trump Tower, etc. European nations including the UK, Germany and France had the lowest contamination rate, but this was still at a frighteningly high level of 72%.

A separate small study conducted in the Rep of Ireland which was released in June 2017 also found microplastic contamination in a handful of tap water and well water samples.                 Dr. Anne Marie Mahon (Galway/Mayo Institute of Technology) conducted the research and said ,” There are two principal concerns, (1) very small plastic particles which have a chemical composition and also (2) the pathogens that microplastics can harbour.”

She added,” Microplastics can attract bacteria found in sewerage-downstream of wastewater treatment plants. Also, microplastics are known to contain and absorb toxic chemicals with research on wild animals showing these can be released in the body. This will be the same for human beings and we need to act fast on this alarming situation.”

The World is running out of vanilla, thanks to climate change and crime.

A combination of climate change, crime and market speculation has driven the price of vanilla to record highs, simultaneously damaging the quality of natural vanilla pods. Ahead of harvest season in the southern hemisphere, and summer in the northern hemisphere, the almost default ice cream flavour choice may not be as ubiquitous as usual.

Vanilla is found in everything from ice cream to bourbon, but most of the World’s vanilla comes from one place, the island of Madagascar. (80% of the world’s vanilla) The uncertainty over this year’s harvest, set to start this month, has sent vanilla prices soaring. Vanilla prices have nearly doubled in the last year, and quadrupled in the last four years. DanWatch, a Danish investigative group, uncovered child labour and pitiful wages on Madagascar’s vanilla plantations. The price increase has also attracted crime, with armed robbers ripping vines out of the ground.’ The 2017 Madagascar crop could very well be the worst quality crop delivered to the market in decades’ a vanilla distributor warned in May.

Eating Burnt toast ‘may increase cancer risk’

Eating certain foods that have been cooked at high temperatures could be linked to cancer, according to Irish health officials. The danger foods include chips, toast, biscuits, crackers, crisps, breakfast cereals (except porridge), coffee, cooked pizza bases & cereal based baby foods.

When cooking at high temperatures (above 120 Degrees Celsius) a chemical compound forms called acrylamide and studies have shown that high levels of it can cause neurological damage and cancer. Acrylamide forms from the chemical reaction between some sugars and the amino acid asparagine, but the reaction is less likely when food is boiled, steamed or microwaved.

The Irish Food Safety Authority have said that people should only fry, roast, bake or toast starchy food until it is a golden yellow colour. A Senior policy advisor has said ‘,We’re not asking people to cut out certain foods. This is about reducing your overall lifetime risk through very simple steps.’

Ireland’s booming food exports defy Brexit fear

The value of Irish food and drink exports last year exceeded a staggering  €11bn for the first time in the country’s history-and meat had a big part to play. Last year marked the seventh successive year of export growth for Irish food and drink, with prepared foods, sheepmeat and pork growing the fastest in a record-breaking year for the  industry.

Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed said one of the notable achievements was the fact that Ireland successfully diversified its market in a year when the UK-it’s largest trading partner-voted in favour of leaving the EU.

‘While trade with the UK fell by 8% triggered by challenging exchange rates, uncertainty arising from Brexit and further competitive pressures, this was offset by increased exports to international and emerging markets such as North America, China and the rest of Asia’ said Creed on January 11th.

The Minister added that Brexit had led to serious currency volatility and unprecedented uncertainty with the country’s number one trading partner. This challenge highlighted the importance of market access and the need for more ‘continued investment in innovation and competitiveness’. Creed said the UK would remain a ‘critically important market’ for Irish food products post-Brexit and did not sugar-coat the headwinds ahead as the UK looks set to trigger Article 50 by March 2017. ‘The 2016 export figures illustrate clearly the importance of collaborative action by government, its agencies and the industry, and the potential for proactive effort o international markets to mitigate the risks associated with these challenges’ said Creed.

President Trump & the future of free trade.

As the World digests the news that Donald Trump is to become the 45th President of the United States of America, his views on international trade will be closely scrutinised by the global food market.

A self confessed ‘free trader’, one of the main international policies is to appoint ‘tough and smart trade negotiators to fight on behalf of American workers’ as he feels that the US hasn’t gotten the best of existing and potential trade agreements.

As part of his ‘Seven-Point Plan’ to rebuild the American economy by fighting free trade, Trump wants to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which has not yet been ratified by the US Council.Trump has gone on record saying it is a ‘horrible deal’ and believed that China would take advantage despite not being one of the TPP nations. Trump stated that,’ this is one of the worst trade deals and I would rather not have it. We’re losing now over $500 billion in terms of imbalance with China, $75 billion a year imbalance with Japan’.

Trump has already been congratulated by many of the World leaders including our own Enda Kenny and also the  British Prime Minister Theresa May who said that Britain and the US have an ‘endearing and special relationship’ and that the two would remain ‘close partners on trade, security and defence.’

The President-elect also has the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin which could result in a stronger relationship between the US and Russia.

Sugar taxes in the UK: Populist case not tackling real concerns or should we follow suit?

The proposed ‘sugar tax’ adopted by the UK was deemed in the food industry and beyond as little more than populist light relief to brighten the impending gloom felt during the Brexit vote. But what’s worse argues Professor Jack Winkler, is that the government’s ‘pseudo-consultation’ about the tax is now evading every big question worth asking.

Should for example ‘slushy’ ices or dissolvable powders be subjected to the proposed ‘soft drinks industry levy’ in the UK? What about those lattes laced with caramel shot’s? Such existential issues are among the 46 specific questions that make up the UK government’s formal consultation on the levy, humanely rebranded by the media there as the ‘Sugar tax’.

There are no questions about the other major sources of sugar in the diet for example such as chocolate, cereals, ice-cream or indeed the white stuff itself. In short, it evades every question worth asking about the tax and Ireland should only consider a more well rounded proposal that tackles the big questions posed. To conclude, if you want to cut sugar specifically, then tax sugar itself, not one category that contains sugar, i.e. soft drinks.