Fish fraud: Seafood mislabeling persistent throughout supply chain

Not only does Canada continue to have a problem with fish mislabelling, but that problem persists throughout the supply chain, according to a first-ever study by University of Guelph researchers.

U of G researchers found 32 per cent of fish were mislabelled and the number of incorrectly identified samples became compounded as the samples moved through the food system.

“We’ve been doing seafood fraud studies for a decade,” said Prof. Robert Hanner, lead author and associate director for the Canadian Barcode of Life Network. “We know there are problems. But this is the first study to move beyond that and look at where the problems are happening throughout the food supply chain.”

The findings reveal that mislabelling happens before fish are imported into Canada, as well as throughout the supply chain, Hanner added.

“It seems it’s not isolated to foreign markets, but it’s also happening at home. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has partnered with us to actively find solutions to this persistent problem,” said Hanner.

Published recently in the journal Food Research International, the study was conducted in collaboration with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Hanner is the associate Director for the Canadian Barcode of Life Network, headquartered at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, University of Guelph.

U of G researchers examined 203 samples from 12 key targeted species collected from various importers, processing plants and retailers in Ontario. Of the samples, 141 (69.5 per cent) were from retailers, 51 (25 per cent) from importers and 11 (5.5 per cent) from processing plants.

Researchers identified the samples using DNA barcoding. Developed at U of G, DNA barcoding allows scientists to determine species of organisms using a short, standardized region of genetic material.

The findings revealed 32 per cent of the samples overall were mislabelled. The mislabelling rate was 17.6 per cent at the import stage, 27.3 per cent at processing plants and 38.1 per cent at retailers.

‘Rusty’ thumbtack found inside NZ blueberry dessert

As the needle-in-produce saga in Australia subsides, it has spread to New Zealand, probably by dim-witted copycats.

Zoe Hunter of the New Zealand Herald reports a batch of blueberries has been removed from supermarket shelves after a Tauranga man believes he found a “rusty” thumbtack inside the small fruit.

The man, who would only be named as Mr Osborne, was celebrating his wife’s birthday at his mother-in-law’s home last night and took the last mouthful of his dessert when he bit into a thumbtack.

“Luckily I bit into it sideways and spat out the tack,” he said.

He believes the thumbtack was inside one of the blueberries that his mother-in-law used in her cake recipe.

“It seems pretty well thought out because when I pushed it into the side of the blueberry you couldn’t see it,” he said. “It was rusty and slightly bent.”

The man had learned blueberries were a good snack for dogs and he and his wife had just got a new puppy.

“Lucky I did not give it to my dog,” he said.

After the incident, Osborne put the blueberry and thumbtack inside a ziplock bag and notified supermarket staff, who he said had handled the complaint well.

Osborne said his mother-in-law had bought the punnet of blueberries from Pak’nSave in Pāpāmoa on January 21.

He had posted his find on Facebook to warn people about checking their fruit thoroughly before eating it.

A Foodstuffs spokesperson said the company had been notified about the incident and an investigation was under way.

“The batch has been pulled from store shelves and we are going through our stringent investigative process,” she said.

“The outcome of the investigation will be referred to the authorities for their review and support.”

The find was the latest in a series of sharp objects finds in produce around New Zealand.

Foreign objects in fruit and vege in 2018:
December: Pin found in strawberry bought at Pak’nSave Cameron Rd
November: Needle found in a capsicum bought at Countdown Bureta 
November: Needle found inside a punnet of strawberries purchased at a supermarket in the South Island in November
September: Three needles found in three strawberries in one imported punnet of Australian Choice brand strawberries at Countdown St Lukes in Auckland

New Zealand Food Safety advice: 
If you see something out of the ordinary, please take it to your retailer or give us a call on 0800 00 83 33.

Barcelona cops arrest 18 beach vendors for selling filthy E. coli riddled mojitos made from ingredients stored in bins and down drains

According to Harvey Solomon-Brady of The Sun, police in Spain have arrested 18 people for selling filthy mojitos riddled with E.coli bacteria to unsuspecting tourists on the beaches.

The cocktails contained “green powders of an unknown composition which were thrown into the drink” and other ingredients which were stored in sewers or rubbish bins.

Public health officials say the mojitos were totally unsuitable for public consumption and could have caused diarrhea, gastroenteritis and other digestive disorders.

Raids were carried out on the beaches along the popular Barcelona coast that were packed with holidaymakers of all nationalities, including Brits.

The green dust is currently being examined in labs but police say everyone who drunk one of these mojitos was put at serious risk.

The 18 people arrested are suspected of making the cocktails and then selling them, usually for between five and ten euros.

The mojitos were made with suspicious ingredients hidden in bins including a mysterious green power

The drinks are sold to unsuspecting tourists on Spanish beaches who think they have come from local bars

Almost all the drains on one particular street were filled with supplies

Spain’s police officers are now cracking down on the illegal trade which can leave holidaymakers very sick

How to stop food sabotage

Last Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, I had a requested op-ed published in the Sydney Morning Herald. I was a little rusty, so Amy did more than just clean it up, and I haven’t gotten around to posting it until now because there was some medical stuff last week, but all is well and here it is:

My 9-year-old daughter and I were watching the news on Saturday morning and she asked, why would someone put a needle in strawberries?

Some people are not nice.

A couple of years ago a food safety type asked me, what’s the biggest risk to the food supply.

I didn’t hesitate.

Deliberate tampering and food fraud.

Food safety has traditionally been faith-based – especially when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables. Consumers cannot control how food is handled before it gets to them. This is why consumers need to know their suppliers and know what they are doing to keep people safe.

This latest food tampering scare – 11 cases of contaminanted strawberries reported nationally so far, the first in Sydney on Saturday – makes that clear.

Faith-based food safety sucks. It always has. Risks have always been present. As Madeleine Ferrieres, the author of Mad Cow, Sacred Cow: A History of Food Fears,  wrote, “All human beings before us questioned the contents of their plates.”

But contemporary consumers forget that contamination risk has always been with us: “We are often too blinded by this amnesia to view our present food situation clearly. This amnesia is very convenient. It allows us to reinvent the past and construct a complaisant, retrospective mythology.”

“We still live with the illusion of modernity, with the false idea that what happens to us is new and unbearable,” she has said in an interview.

What’s new is that we have better tools to detect problems. This also presents an opportunity: those who use the best tools should be able to prove their food is safe through testing and brag about it. They can market food safety measures at retail.

The days of faith-based food safety are coming to a protracted close.

There is a lack – a disturbing lack – of on-farm food safety inspection; farmers need to be more aware of the potential for contamination from microbes (from listeria in rockmelon, for example) as well as sabotage.

There is an equally large lack of information to consumers where they buy their produce. What do Australian grocery shoppers know of the food safety regulations applied to the produce sold in their most popular stores? Who can they ask to find the answers?

The best solution is for farmers and retailers to market food safety. If they have a great food safety program they should be promoting it. Consumers can handle more information rather than less.

Douglas Powell is a (sorta?) retired professor of food safety in Canada and the US who now lives in Brisbane. He blogs at barfblog.com.

And in memorandum, Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy, the Blues Brothers’ guitarist and longtime blues sideman who died Friday at 88.

Needles in Australian produce: Copy-cats, metal detector sales and stiff penalties for ‘cowards and grubs’

With more than 100 reports of tampered fruit being investigated by police across Australia, an Adelaide father has been charged over a fake needle-in-strawberry report.

Police say the 34-year-old last week reported that his daughter bit into a strawberry purchased at a local supermarket and that it was contaminated with a needle.

The arrest comes as the hunt for those responsible for sticking needles in strawberries continues, and the federal government ramps up penalties for so- called “food terrorists.”

Food tamperers could spent 10 to 15 years behind bars under draft laws passed by the government on Thursday.

One young boy in NSW has already been arrested over behaviour that “could be called a prank”, police said, and he will be dealt with under the youth cautioning system.

The warning comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison looks to punish ‘cowards’ who purposely contaminate food.

Culprits could face up to 15 years jail under tough updates to food contamination laws the PM will urgently push through parliament this week.

And “idiots” who post Facebook hoaxes about fake contamination cases could face up to 10 years in jail under new measures to deal with “reckless” behaviour.

‘Sabotage’ laws will also be updated to include the sabotage of “goods for human consumption” where it impacts national security.

“Any idiot who thinks they can go out into a shopping centre and start sticking pins in fruit and thinks this is some sort of lark or put something on Facebook which is a hoax, that sort of behaviour is reckless and under the provision we will be seeking to introduce swiftly, that type of behaviour would carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison,” Prime Minister Morrison said today.

“It’s not a joke. It’s not funny. You are putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk and you are scaring children,” he said.

“You are a coward and a grub. And if you do that sort of thing in this country we will come after you and we will throw the book at you.”

Meanwhile, the strawberry scandal’s costing the industry millions of dollars, but it’s created a booming trade for one food safety company.

A&D Australasia provides metal detectors to food production companies, and their sales in the last week – including in New Zealand – have skyrocketed.

Spokesperson for the company Julian Horsley says he’s sold a year’s worth of products in just four days.

“There’s an element of panic obviously because customers are saying we can’t buy your product until this and this are in line – so that’s obviously a commercial panic to them” he said.

Each detector costs around $22,000, but Horsley says growers are viewing them as an investment.

“For these guys it’s either put my produce in the rubbish bin, or supply it to the customers.”

Six people die after South African Christian pastor feeds bleach to his church, tells them ‘this is the blood of Jesus’

Andrew Bieszad of Shoebat reports that six are dead and four are in critical condition after a Pastor fed his church congregation bleach because he told them it was the “Blood of Jesus.”

The pastor, who works at a church at the Ark Ministry in Makgodu Village, in Limpopo, South Africa, told people he has the power to turn the poisonous liquid into the blood of the Son of God.

Shocking pictures taken of a service show the suit-wearing religious leader pouring what is said to be bleach from a white bottle directly into the mouths of church-goers.

According to local news services, the pastor, who didn’t want to be named, said: “Yes, it was Jik before I made the declaration. But after I declared it to be the blood of Jesus Christ it means it’s no longer Jik so it won’t harm anyone who consumes it.”

Jik is a brand of lemon bleach.

He went on to describe his bleach-drinking sessions as similar to when Jesus gave his disciples wine to drink, telling them it was his blood.

But Limpopo police spokesman, Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe, said officers had yet to receive any complaints, requesting members of the congregation come forward to speak to officers.

Man swallows needle in strawberry bought from Woolworths Australia

Queensland, with its sub-tropical climate, has fabulous produce and seafood.

Even if regulators are a bit dopey about food safety.

Jill Poulson and Tanya Westthorp of the Courier-Mail report health authorities are warning people who have bought strawberries in Queensland, NSW and Victoria to throw the punnets out after several incidents of needles being found in strawberries sold at Woolworths.

Queensland Health and Queensland Police today took the extraordinary step to urge people who bought strawberries across the eastern seaboard in the past week to throw them out after three separate incidents in Queensland and Victoria.

Police suspect the ground-down needles were deliberately planted in the punnets with the culprit intending to cause ‘grievous bodily harm or other objectives’.

The needle allegedly found in strawberries purchased from Woolworths at northside Brisbane. Pic: Supplied.

The contaminated strawberries come from one farm and are sold under the brands ‘Berry Obsession’ and ‘Berry Licious’. They are sold from Woolworths and it’s believed they may also be sold at other stores. A product recall is underway.

It comes as a 21-year-old Burpengary man ended up in hospital after he swallowed part of a needle when he bit into a strawberry bought from Strathpine in Brisbane’s north on Sunday.

Two more incidents in Victoria were confirmed yesterday.

Everyone’s got a camera: Fake food poisoning Gangnam Style

Dancing Gangnam Style by the side of a swimming pool in Cyprus, Liam Royle appears full of life.

Yet according to him, he was suffering from food poisoning he had developed while on his holiday – experiencing stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.

The 23-year-old made a fraudulent sickness claim against Jet2holidays, stating that he suffered from “personal injury” and a “loss of enjoyment” while staying at Papantonia Hotel Apartments, and also “missed meals, excursions, swimming time and other general activities”.

However, when Royle’s former girlfriend became aware of his dishonesty, she contacted the company with a rather incriminating dossier which showed that instead on his holiday, Royle visited the nearby town of Ayia Napa, where he walked around the shops and ate a McDonalds, did not miss meals, drank beer and cocktails, swam in the pool, and was even filmed dancing Gangnam Style.

Instead, the woman who wishes to remain anonymous continued, the 2015 holiday was “fabulous”.

In light of the evidence, Jet2holidays challenged the Manchester man’s claim, and a district judge ruled that he was “fundamentally dishonest” and ordered he pay the company more than £6,000 in costs.

Pins found in pepperoni sticks, sausage sold in B.C.

Nanaimo, British Columbia (that’s in Canada) may be famous for its Nanaimo bars, but now police are investigating after pins were found in meat products sold throughout Nanaimo, B.C.

RCMP (that’s the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, where’s your horse?) say they’ve had three reports about food tampering at separate stores in the Vancouver Island city since December 2017, but no injuries have been reported.

In each case, a pin — similar to one used for sewing — was found in a pepperoni stick or Ukrainian sausage made by Grimm’s Fine Foods.

Police say they haven’t received any reports involving other Grimm’s products, or any other meat products in Nanaimo or elsewhere.

Investigators believe the products were tampered with while on display.

Const. Gary O’Brien says the public needs to be especially vigilant and inspect meat products before eating them.

Food fraud: Over 3600 tonnes of dangerous food removed from EU market

Trafficking in fake and substandard food is big business, and efforts to stop this global phenomenon are ongoing

Rotten meat, chemically coloured tuna and fake baby milk powder – these are just a small sampling of the products seized as part of the latest OPSON investigation into the presence of counterfeit and substandard food and beverage products on the market in Europe and beyond.

Run over the course of 4 months (December 2017 – March 2018) across 67 countries*, OPSON VII resulted in the total seizure of more than 3 620 tonnes and 9.7 million litres of either counterfeit or substandard food and beverages as a results of more than 41 000 checks carried out at shops, markets, airports, seaports and industrial estates. In total some 749 people were arrested or detained with investigations continuing in many countries.

“The results of OPSON demonstrate what can be achieved to protect consumers worldwide when law enforcement agencies join their efforts and perform coordinated actions”, said Jari Liukku, Head of Europol’s European Serious and Organised Crime Centre, “It is a threat which requires such cooperation across borders, taking into account the increased integration and globalisation of supply chains. All countries face this threat and it is the duty of law enforcement agencies to make sure what consumers get in their plate is genuine and safe”.

“The dismantling of nearly 50 criminal networks involved in the production of fake food and drink is an important result in stemming the flow of potentially lethal products into the marketplace,” said Daoming Zhang, Head of INTERPOL’s Illicit Markets unit. “The volume of counterfeit and substandard products seized is a reminder to the public that they need to remain careful about what they buy and from where.”

The annual operation coordinated by Europol and INTERPOL is supported by customs, police and national food regulatory bodies in addition to partners from the private sector. Since its first edition in 2011, the number of countries taking part in OPSON has grown every year, reflecting the growing commitment to tackle this issue.

In Europe the close cooperation established between Europol and the EU Commission coordinating the EU Food Fraud Network led to the implementation of a specific project targeting the fraudulent trade of tuna. A comprehensive approach involving all stakeholders allowed the phenomenon to be tackled in an innovative and more effective manner via the simultaneous use of administrative and criminal enforcement tools. Europol will continue to support this multiagency approach in the upcoming editions of OPSON.

Belgium – sale of rotten meat unfit for consumption

Belgium closed a major meat processing plant in the country, and supermarkets have taken meat products off their shelves in a scandal over rotten meat. The incriminated company saw its licence revoked by the federal government, after spot checks revealed a potential health risk in two products: minced beef and oxtail. Officials found traces of so-called meat waste, pieces of the carcass, intended for animal feed which are prohibited for human consumption.

Spain – fake baby milk powder

Four people have been arrested and a factory that packaged counterfeit baby milk mostly destined for China dismantled in Spain. Eight tonnes of the forged product were seized. The powder bought in bulk in Poland for one euro per kilo and delivered to Barcelona was not harmful but it lacked the nutrients needed by infants. It was also made in an environment that did not comply with food health and safety standards.

European wide-action – fraudulent practices in the tuna fish industry

During OPSON VII, an EU coordinated action was run with the support of the EU Food Fraud Network across 11 European countries** in order to detected fraudulent practices pertaining to tuna fish. This was the first time that such an action was carried out on a specific product. The illicit practises included species substitution and fraudulently selling tuna intended for canning as fresh. In this case, the tuna intended for canning was illegally treated with chemical substances that altered its colour to give the misleading impression of its freshness. In total, more than 51 tonnes of tuna were seized and more than 380 samples were taken.

France- smuggling of perishable goods

In a joint operation, The French Gendarmerie, Customs, Police and Ministry of Agriculture seized in its overseas territories over 9.5 tonnes of smuggled perishable goods and 60 litres of fuel and raw material intended for illegal gold mining.

Training in the detection of food fraud

Throughout the year, representatives from a variety of agencies and sectors – police and customs officers, prosecutors, investigative experts – attend training courses and workshops in advance of the operational activity. These hands-on workshops equip participants with the knowledge they need for the raids and follow-up investigations, in particular, enabling them to better distinguish fake products from genuine ones. In Hungary, the National Tax and Customs Administration in cooperation with the National Food Chain Safety Office and the National Board Against Counterfeiting produced a short video to explain the operation to law enforcement officers and a general audience.

A final and detailed report on the results of the operation OPSON VII will be published in the upcoming months.