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We aim to educate and enlighten about Stable Isotope Analysis and other counter fraud techniques.


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By Agroisolab, May 4 2018 09:18AM

Belarus’s last official outbreak of African Swine Fever was in 2014, and since then, officials claim, the country has been virus-free. However, recent developments have suggested that Belarus may be suffering from instances of ASF as it spreads through Europe – instances that the Belarusian government are denying, to the counterpoint of Russian veterinary suspicions and locals.

Despite announcing three outbreaks of ASF in Belarus in 2013/2014, authorities were criticised by Russian officials over a lack of transparency in the efforts against the disease. As with the current alleged outbreak, reports were that undocumented instances of ASF occurred in Belarus in the previous year, but were not officially declared by authorities.

The same accusations also occurred in 2015 in Stolpnya, which is the location of the current suspected outbreak.

In August 2017, another accusation of ASF was brought up at a large pig farm in the Gomel region. Locals claimed that pigs were culled and burned at the farm, and told by veterinary inspectors that pigs were not allowed to be bred for 6 months. The locals suspected ASF, however there was no official report about the incident, and attempts by media to gain any information about what happened have been denied by Belarusian veterinary officials.

On the 10th of April, Russian veterinary authorities imposed temporary restrictions on Belarusian pork due to the presence of ASF detected in imported pork products.

Reportedly, around 500,000 pigs in Belarus have ‘disappeared’ since the start of 2018 (archived article). According to the Agricultural and Food Minister of Belarus, Leonid Zayats, pig farms are being closed due to upgrading and modernisation, but Russian veterinary officials suspect that this is a cover up for outbreaks of African Swine Fever.

Missing livestock that cannot be accounted for could be the result of culling and destruction of the corpses. However, there is a chance that any meat from missing livestock may end up in the supply chain under a different label of speciation, or origin – as with the Horsegate scandal in 2013, where horse meat from a surplus in Romania (due to a ban on live exports of horses and a ban on horse-drawn carts in cities and on main roads) allegedly entered France labelled as beef, and then the UK.

Traceability issues in meat can cause health and economic concerns as well as bad publicity. Horsegate brought the word ‘bute’ to the headlines – shortened from the word phenylbutazone, an equine painkiller. Although the overall risk from the painkiller ended up being low, the mislabelling issue showed the relative ease with which infected or contaminated meat could end up on the plates of the public.

African Swine Fever could have a devastating effect on the pork industry if it spreads further into Europe and across to the UK. The UK exports a large amount of pork to China – a country that will not buy from countries with confirmed outbreaks and risk its own intensive pig industry. Chinese demand for British pork has doubled over the past few years and in August last year, the UK signed a new pork export deal with China, which is expected to generate £200m for the UK’s food industry.

Germany, a country at high risk of the spread of African Swine Fever, also exports a lot of pork to China . As one of the major EU pig producers, Germany is currently taking measures such as the culling of 70% of the wild boar population in an effort to prevent ASF from stretching into its borders.

Although the UK does not contain the same number of wild boar as the rest of Europe, the possibility still exists that some of the 4000 population could come into contact with contaminated pork products and spread ASF to domestic pigs, or that outbreaks could occur on domestic pig farms from contaminated food.

As ASF sweeps through Europe and presses closer to Germany’s borders, it’s clear that concerted efforts of both biosecurity and meat traceability need to come into play. Imported pork products transported around Europe should be verified for origin to ensure supply chain traceability. Pork fraud may also target products that command a premium – such as British or free-range pork – by substituting cheaper imported pork, which can be around a third cheaper for suppliers, with these products. Since China does not import pork from countries with ASF, a surplus of cheap pork in Europe may be imported to the UK and mislabelled as British, therefore increasing the risk of ASF spread and further fraud.

Agroisolab recommends testing pork for verification of origin. See our pork page for more information.

By Agroisolab, Mar 29 2018 02:12PM

In December, Dutch animal welfare organisation Wakker Dier purchased packs of quail eggs from an egg wholesaler, Eicom, through a supermarket chain. The packaging claimed that the eggs originated from the Netherlands and were from free-range quail.

However, isotope origin tests by Agroisolab DE determined that none of the eggs originated from the Netherlands, and that they were in fact battery eggs from Brittany in France. An investigation by Dutch consumer investigation TV programme, Keuringsdienst van Waarde, found that Eicom had been supplied quail eggs several times by French producer Cailles de Chanteloup.

Although the EU banned battery cages from 2012, the law only applies to chickens, not quail. Since quail eggs are small, they are not stamped with any identifying marks, unlike chicken eggs, which leaves them open for possible fraud.

Agroisolab is happy to answer any questions regarding testing origin/organic eggs. Please visit our egg page for more information.

By Agroisolab, Mar 20 2018 11:58AM

On the 15th of March, Agroisolab made the trip down to Woking from York to attend the NEPCon Sourcing Illegal Timber 2.0 conference at the WWF UK Living Planet Centre.

The all-day event was attended by various companies and enforcement agencies discussing due diligence in the timber trade, tools used in the present and future, and their own company’s compliance with timber regulations. To view the full recorded livestream, please click below.

Within our own presentation (skip to 5:08:40 on the livestream), our Operations Manager, Charlie Watkinson, gave a brief introduction to stable isotopes and discussed how technologies can be combined to solidify a company’s due diligence process.

When should you use stable isotopes for timber origin testing? Click below to see Agroisolab's answer:

Agroisolab would like to extend a big Thank You to NEPCon for organising the conference, and also to all the attendees and presenters.

By Agroisolab, Mar 13 2018 03:47PM

Agroisolab UK is pleased to announce that we will be at NEPCon's conference for sourcing legal timber at the Living Planet Centre, WWF UK headquarters, in Woking on the 15th of March. We will be giving a short presentation on our work with traceability in timber, why it is important, and using isotope testing to determine origin.

Timber traceability is an important part of fighting deforestation and illegal logging – issues that can lead to significant habitat loss for endangered species, and threaten ecosystems. With deforestation a widespread problem, it is becoming increasingly important to ensure supply chains are not contaminated with illegally-sourced products.

If you have any questions on the traceability of timber, please don’t hesitate to come and talk to us!

We hope to see you there!

By Agroisolab, Dec 21 2017 02:53PM

This Christmas you might be looking forward to tucking into smoked salmon sandwiches, gravlax, or salmon on blinis. However, never has it been so obvious that where the salmon we buy originated from really matters.

Most of us will look at the salmon we buy and think "Norweigian" has an authentic ring to it, or "by buying Scottish Salmon, we're supporting a local industry." Maybe we wouldn't even think to draw a distinction with "Canadian" salmon. After all, Canada is a developed country and has an enormous salmon industry.

The film below made by Tavish Campbell, Steve Schellenberg, and Farlyn Campbell (credit: shows graphic content of blood being pumped from a salmon processing facility in British Columbia directly into a bay where 1/3 of all British Columbia salmon swim past.

Norway has strict laws against this activity and it is recognised that blood from salmon risks introducing Picene Reovirus - a disease which can cause Heart and Skeletal Muscular Inflamation (HSMI) in wild salmon, potentially damaging the wild fish's population (more information on Picene Reovirus is available from British Columbia's Ministry of Agriculture here).

Consumers care where their salmon comes from - now more than ever. If you are in the salmon industry, or know someone that it, Agroisolab can help develop a system to authenticate the origin of salmon to build a more transparent supply chain and demonstrate the integrity and care that should go along with producing salmon.

By Agroisolab, Dec 11 2017 01:20PM

Olive oil production may suffer another set-back due to the steadily-increasing threat of the Xylella fastidiosa bacteria.

As well as contending with a poor harvest due to bad weather, Italian olive farmers in southern Puglia are suffering from the spread of the Xylella fastidiosa bacteria. Spread by insects and movement of infected plants, the bacteria has the power to decimate entire groves of olive trees, and spreads rapidly. For this reason, it is known to some as the ‘Ebola of the olive tree’. Like Ebola, there is no current cure.

The bacteria can lead to many symptoms that lead to the death of the tree, including leaf scorch and dehydration as water vessels are blocked. From October 2013 to April 2015, the disease had affected the whole Province of Lecce and was spreading further through Puglia, and had infected around 1 million trees at the beginning of the year.

It is thought that disease was introduced from endemic Costa Rica, although some olive farmers in Italy either consider the infection as a deliberate attempt by the government and scientists to make money, introduced by multinational corporations to sell pesticides and herbicides, or a problem caused by poor management of trees by large-scale companies – theories that many choose to believe in order to protect their livelihoods against government orders to destroy infected trees.

Between 2014 and 2016, it was determined that since the disease had spread so far north, eradication was no longer possible, and in 2015 a containment area was established in efforts to contain the infection. Several other countries have also detected Xylella since 2015, including France, Spain and Germany, with fears that these outbreaks may affect other olive groves as well as grape vines.

Olive oil producers rely on established groves to sell their high-grade and prized oil. Already known as one of the most adulterated and mislabelled products that can be bought on the shelves, the origin of olive oil carries a lot of weight, like wine. With Xylella’s slow spread upwards through Puglia, and more groves falling to the disease, there is a big concern that some suppliers or producers may adulterate or mislabel their oil in order to fill quotas – or take advantage of the rising prices to make a larger profit by stretching their production. Even with poor harvests, demand for olive oil doesn’t drop.

But how can suppliers protect their consumers from olive oil fraud?

The most common risks in olive oil are origin mislabelling, when suppliers buy in olives from outside countries, and adulteration with lower-grade oils, such as pomace oil. Isotope testing provides a way to distinguish between the countries of origin for olive oil, and also help to identify any dilution of premium oils with lower grade oils, even if they are from the same origin.

Olive oil may also be diluted with non-allowed oils, such as waste oil, mineral oil, or animal feed oil. With authenticity in mind, isotope testing should be able to detect the presence of any dilution through the different isotope signatures, and can then identify whether further investigation is needed.

Agroisolab is pleased to answer any questions that suppliers or consumers may have about olive oil risks and isotope testing. If you would like to know more about the various tests on olive oil that Agroisolab can offer, please visit our olive oil page.

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