Growing societal demand for food authenticity, safety and broader food security is creating both new opportunities and increased challenges for Nordic suppliers, manufacturers and retailers. The mislabelling of food products came to great prominence during the 2013 “horse meat scandal” in Europe, when a range of supposedly beef products were found to contain horse meat. What makes this discovery surprising is that it took place despite the clear set of European Union (EU) regulations relating to food traceability and labelling, which require a complex system of checks to ensure that food remains authentic and traceable. It was primarily through the use of DNA based methodologies for identifying species that this fraud was detected.
Research have shown that the seafood sector is particularly vulnerable when it comes to fraud, partly due to the fact that seafood is the world’s most international traded food commodity and because seafood has extreme biological diversity and variable characteristics that can create or hamper competitive advantage in marketing of products. Among other issues that the seafood sector has to deal with in regard to food fraud are:
- Species substitution is among the highest of all food commodities, as published research has identified an average substitution rate of around 30%, and much higher for certain high value species. Many of the species supplied from the Nordic countries have favourable characteristics, which make them a target for substitution.
- False claims of origin, where the Nordic sector is particularly vulnerable. Seafood from the Nordic countries is in many cases having competitive advantage because of its clean and natural image, sustainable sourcing practices, good management etc.
- False claims of social responsibility, where fish processed by for example slave labour is being sold in competition with Nordic products.
- False documents where IUU catches are being sold in competition with Nordic products.
- Unsafe products that have not been produced in accordance with Nordic or EU standards are being sold in competition with Nordic products.
These are only few examples of the severity of the problem and how it may affect the Nordic seafood sector. The Authenticate project was initiated to bring together experts from marine laboratories and other institutions across the Nordic countries working on food integrity. Now that the project has come to a completion we can report that the project has successfully facilitated networking by bringing together stakeholders in the field of food authenticity in the Nordic countries. It has as well raced awareness of the issue of food fraud in the Nordic seafood sector, contributed to work on standardisation of methods for detecting fraud, and contributed to the writing of a H2020 proposal that was successful and includes some of the partners in the Authenticate consortium. This H2020 project is called Authent-Net and will hopefully contribute to further advances in the battle against food fraud.
Agenda and presentations from the Authenticate workshop
- 9:00-9:15 Welcome and introduction (Jónas Vidarsson – Matís, Iceland)
- 9:15-9:45 Food integrity – overall challenges and standards (Patrick Berg Sørdahl – Nofima, Norway)
- 9:45-10:15 Food integrity and animal feed (Jónas Vidarsson – Matís, Iceland)
- 10:15-10:45 Coffee brake
- 10:45-11:15 Microbial pathogens and available detection methods (Guðbjörg Ólafsdóttir – Matís, Iceland)
- 11:15-11:45 The role of genomics in detection of food fraud (Guðbjörg Ólafsdóttir – Matís, Iceland)
- 11:45-13-00 Launch
- 13:00-13:30 Sampling of seafood in European restaurants within the FoodIntegrity project (Miguel Angel Pardo – AZTI, Spain)
- 13:30-13:50 Report on Authenticate workshop in Iceland (Jónas Vidarsson – Matís, Iceland)
- 13:50-14:10 Report on Authenticate workshop in Norway (Geir Dahle – IMR, Norway)
- 14:10-14:30 Report on Authenticate workshop in Denmark (Jakob Hemmer Hansen – DTU, Denmark)
- 14:30-15:00 Coffee brake
- 15:00-15:30 The EU research project Authent-Net and the FARNHub (Patrick Berg Sørdahl– Nofima, Norway)
- 15:30-16:30 Discussions – Where do we go from here?
Place: Faroe Islands, Havstovan, Faroe Marine Research Institute, Nóatún 1, Tórshavn.
Time: November 14th, kl. 9:00 – 16:30.
The workshop was open to the public and broadcasted on Facebook where 200 people watched the event.
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