New additions to USP Food Fraud Database

January 23, 2013

Nearly 800 new records of “food fraud” added to the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention’s (USP) Food Fraud Database present new information about foods that are vulnerable to fraudulent manipulation in today’s food supply. The first iteration of the database compiled 1,300 records of food fraud published between 1980 and 2010. The update increases the total number of records by 60%—and consists mostly of newer information published in 2011 and 2012 in both scholarly journals and general media.

Initial analyses of the database by USP food scientists was published in the April 2012 issue of Journal of Food Science. This research revealed that milk, vegetable oils, and spices were among the top categories where food fraud occurred as documented in published reports. Analyses of new information by USP scientists show similar trends for 2011 and 2012, and add seafood (fish, shrimp), clouding agents, and lemon juice as categories vulnerable to food fraud.

“While food fraud has been around for centuries, with a handful of notorious cases well documented, we suspect that what we know about the topic is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Jeffrey Moore, Senior Scientific Liaison for USP and the database’s creator and lead analyst. “The idea behind the database was to shed some light on this largely uncharacterized space by collecting and analyzing the fragmented information in the public domain reported by scholars, regulators and media.”

Among the new scholarly records added to the database, the top ingredients represented are olive oil, milk, saffron, honey, and coffee (all in the top seven in the analysis of 1980–2010 records), followed by tea, fish, clouding agents (commonly used in fruit juices/beverages to improve their visual appearance and make products look freshly squeezed), and black pepper—none of which was in the top 25 for 1980–2010. Among the new media and other reports examined, the most-represented products in the database are milk, fish, turmeric, chili powder, and cooking oil (all in the top 12 in 1980–2010), followed by shrimp, lemon juice, and maple syrup (none of which was even in the top 25 in 1980–2010).

Press release