Caviar

Ensuring caviar traceability and authenticity through stable isotope ratio analysis testing.

The authenticity and traceability of produce is important for a great number of reasons including ensuring that financial transactions and the movement of goods are in accordance with the law.

Caviar, as an often-expensive delicacy, risks being the subject of origin fraud. Beluga caviar, the most expensive type of caviar, is from the critically endangered Beluga sturgeon from the Caspian Sea.

Agroisolab currently has data from the following countries/areas:

  • Azerbaijan

  • Bulgaria

  • Caspian Sea

  • France

  • Germany

  • Iran

  • Italy

  • Kazakhstan

In 2013, the German Customs Investigation Office food service seated in Cologne discovered a large-scale tax avoidance operation in Pfungstadt, Germany. The Treasury witheld € 150,000 on customs duties and import turnover tax.

Caviar products being sold were declared to have originated from a farm in Germany. However, the producer in fact obtained the caviar from the Caspian Sea and used the farm as a front to avoid paying the taxes and duties on the import of the caviar.

 

After evaluating the extensive amount of evidence seized, it was clear that the convicted person had sold more than 100kg of beluga caviar at several top restaurants throughout the course of the year.

Under the investigation of the Customs Authority, the owner of the breeding facility could neither provide proof of the legal acquisition of the protected animals nor information about the origin of the caviar.

 

Additionally, DJE investigators used stable isotope analysis, provided by Agroisolab GmbH, to demonstrate the caviar did not originate from the farm, but from the Caspian Sea.

 

The perpetrator was sentenced to prison for one year for the offence. The sentence could not be suspended as the convicted person was already in custody for other offences.

Based on the knowledge that different geographical regions exhibit different isotope ratios in water, it is fair to reason that animals living in those regions will take up the water in their tissues. This is particularly evident in freshwater fish like sturgeon (Acipenser) and their caviar.

As part of the initial feasibility study supported by the Customs Criminal Office in Cologne, 33 samples of caviar from different provenances were used to demonstrate that the origin of caviar could be determined by stable isotope analysis. Above all, the most significant outcomes were the differences between European and non-European caviar in the various breeding/production styles. The efficacy of the isotope method was confirmed in a blind test.

In detail, caviar samples from Iran show significantly enriched 18O/16O and D/H isotope ratios, whereas samples from Kazakhstan show significantly depleted 18O/16O and D/H isotope ratios.

In fact, measurement of the isotopes of water from caviar allows differentiation between European countries (Germany, France, Italy and Bulgaria). Despite the great difference in geography, samples from Azerbaijan have similar 18O/16O and D/H isotope ratios to samples in Italy in France, though they are significantly different to samples from Germany and Bulgaria.

As part of the initial feasibility study supported by the Customs Criminal Office in Cologne, 33 samples of caviar from different provenances were used to demonstrate that the origin of caviar could be determined by stable isotope analysis. Above all, the most significant outcomes were the differences between European and non-European caviar in the various breeding/production styles. The efficacy of the isotope method was confirmed in a blind test.

In detail, caviar samples from Iran show significantly enriched 18O/16O and D/H isotope ratios, whereas samples from Kazakhstan show significantly depleted 18O/16O and D/H isotope ratios.

isotope ratios of oxygen and hydrogen in the tissue water of caviar samples

The isotope ratios of oxygen and hydrogen in the tissue water of caviar samples from different regions/countries (click to enlarge)

isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen in the crude protein of caviar samples

The isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen in the crude protein of caviar samples from different regions/countries (click to enlarge)

isotope ratios of sulphur and hydrogen of caviar

The isotope ratios of sulphur and hydrogen of caviar samples from different regions/countries (click to enlarge)

Interested in sending a sample to us? For more information, contact us.

1 Welburn Business Park

Welburn

Malton

North Yorkshire

YO60 7EP

+44 (0)1653 619444

©2018 AGROISOLAB UK

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