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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, 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.

By Agroisolab, Nov 29 2017 11:36AM

The end of the trail for food fraud is the consumer’s shopping basket – or a lab! – but what about the start?

Livestock smuggling is one of the many ways that food fraud can take root. In the UK, sheep are especially targeted for theft – in 2015, 3,091 sheep were stolen at a cost of around £122,000 to farmers. In 2017, by June, the number of sheep stolen reached 2,228.

Many rustled sheep will end up in the illegal meat trade almost immediately after being stolen. As well as the meat coming from unknown sources, welfare and hygiene standards cannot be verified from meat sold illegally. Other sheep may have their identities changed in order to pass them off as coming from a different farm, and then are processed with fraudulent credentials.

In September, a farmer in Cheshire discovered 178 of her pigs had been stolen from her farm. Like the sheep, the pigs are likely to have been sold directly to an illegal meat supplier, or have had their identification removed or altered.

As well as sheep and pigs, a huge number of Northern Irish cattle have been reported as lost or stolen in three years, many from across the border areas. As with sheep rustling, the thefts are thought to be carried out by criminal gangs who then change the identification of the cattle and then smuggle them into factories in the Republic of Ireland. So far, over 10,000 cattle are considered lost or stolen in three years.

Livestock theft is a rural crime that is hard to prevent, since the actual thefts are often carried out at night, and can take place in fields a few miles away from the farms. With many rural police stations closing due to cuts, reporting the crimes is becoming increasingly difficult for farmers.

So far, in terms of traceability, farmers in North Yorkshire are trialling a system that encodes sheep fleeces and coats with thousands of microdots containing forensic evidence on the farm of origin. A database will then broadcast any thefts to auction marts, the police, and abattoirs. However, with the microdots in the coats of the sheep, any sheep that have already been slaughtered and packaged may not be identifiable.

It’s clear that livestock theft needs to be stopped and consumers must be protected against any mislabelled or illegal meat.

Identifying where the meat comes from once the stolen animal has been slaughtered can be a difficult task, and the solution may lie at a chemical level.

Isotope testing compares isotope ratios against a reference database to establish whether or not the meat is from its declared origin. As well as being able to identify country of origin for pork, poultry and beef, Agroisolab is currently interested in expanding its databases in order to offer more localised results should any meat fall under suspicion, or even just for suppliers to verify where their meat is from.

Isotope testing provides a reliable verification method for many products, including organic verification. Agroisolab is happy to offer a deal on one-for-one testing – a free sample tested in exchange for a reference sample. This limited offer is available until the 1st of January, and is available to new customers.

By Agroisolab, Nov 24 2017 02:59PM

Sales of ‘superfoods’ are being bolstered by the increase of health-consciousness in society. Despite some of these foods being on our supermarket shelves for a long time, in the past few years they have experienced a resurgence, with claims of vitamins and antioxidants fuelling demand.

Morrisons supermarket has continued its ‘Wonky’ line by selling blemished pomegranates to keep up with the rise in demand for the fruit. Rich in vitamin C and potassium, pomegranates appeal to the idea of healthy living.

Brazil nuts, a common Christmas treat, are renowned for their high selenium content, a mineral needed for a healthy immune system and prevents cell and nerve damage, and their high monounsaturated fat. However, the harvest for Brazil nuts in 2017, mainly from Bolivia, dropped significantly due to drought across the South America last year caused by the El Niño weather event.

Another fruit suffering from lower harvests and price drops is the widely-exalted blueberry. European wild blueberries prices have risen sharply due to the low harvests, and in the US, price drops for farmers means that the government has had to step in to try and support the sector by purchasing some of the surplus berries in Maine.

Recently, coconuts have come into focus for the health benefits of their oil, butter, and water, but falling production in areas such as the Caribbean, and the rise in demand, means that supply has dropped.

So what are the risks with some of our favourite healthy foods?

Any food market where supply is smaller than demand will run the risk of fraudulent products sneaking into the supply chain. Coconuts can have many different properties – the oil can be used as a cooking aid or a cosmetic product, and their meat is used in many different foods. As such, the potential for fraud is fairly large, consisting of country of origin/Fairtrade sourcing mislabelling, dilution of oil, water and milk, addition of undeclared sweeteners, and organic claims. A NFCU (National Food Crime Unit) investigation this year discovered undeclared added sugars in several different coconut drink products.

Brazil nuts, like other nuts, are at risk of adulteration or mixing with other, cheaper kinds of nut when ground or chopped. Because of the high prices and low supply of this year, it is possible that suppliers may try and stretch their stock by adding other kinds of nuts or substituting organic Brazil nuts for conventional.

Premium products, such as pomegranates and blueberries are also at risk of organic fraud, since the higher prices means that a large profit can be made by passing off conventional products as organic.

What can be done to reduce the risk of fraud in these products?

Traceability in supply chains is essential for food safety. Isotope testing can offer a way to help detect different types of fraud in products where there is suspicion, or if any checks need to be carried out.

Agroisolab is pleased to offer tests for sugar addition in products, organic verification, and country of origin testing on products with an appropriate database.

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