FOOD FRAUD is an increasingly critical issue in all areas of the complex and global supply chain. The problem of counterfeiting involves not only the deliberate re-labeling or incorrect labeling of cheap to premium products, but also the stretching with inferior components as well as the mixing of genetically unmodified products with genetically modified products. Information on authenticity parameters, such as geographical or botanical origin and chemical identity of plant raw materials, can be checked in principle by means of control of freight documents or invoices (traceability). In practice, this method has often proved to be inadequate, especially in the case of skillful criminal manipulations (FOOD CRIME), so that there is a need to develop safe analytical strategies.
For the research consortium the following tasks are derived:
High-tech method development (non-targeted)
For the differentiation of raw materials of different geographic origins as well as different biological identities, firstly highly resolved data (fingerprints) are recorded on all relevant cellular levels (genomics, proteomics and metabolomics). These studies are complemented by high-resolution element and isotope profile analyzes (isotopolomics).
Routine applications (targeted)
On the basis of statistical differences between the observed atomic and molecular data profiles, after data reduction, marker compounds are extracted from the experimental data, which can be used for the downstream development of uncomplicated and routine methods. At the same time, protocols are created that can be adapted and further developed cost-effectively in a company or commercial laboratory with appropriate equipment requirements, and ideally by scientifically untrained personnel.
A sustained data management system provides the basis for analyzing all data records, fingerprints and sequences / barcodes, even repeatedly at times (memory effect) and with regard to completely different questions. Especially the recycling of data can be particularly valuable with regard to the traceability of food.
A major goal is the transfer of knowledge, i. e. a close collaboration between academic research institutes and the economic enterprises involved, to improve food safety together.
Further developments on the technical / equipment side, in the software area as well as in the area of the interplay of the different physical processes should make food profiling better and more sustainable in the medium and long term. The goal is the optimization of the overall system towards sensitivity and total resolution, in order to get a still defined picture of the raw materials investigated. The possibility of directly linking the collected information with appropriate software algorithms can further improve the result. In addition, new physical principles are to be included in the concept upon availability.