onsumers are increasingly concerned about the origin of their food. There is a rising demand for country of origin labelling (‘COOL’) due to factors such as patriotism, culinary or organoleptic qualities, animal welfare, and decreasing confidence in food quality and safety from foods produced outside their region.
The EU TRACE project was a 5 year €18million integrated multi-approach project with over fifty partners and divided in to 14 work packages (WPs). Its aim was to develop and apply methods to authenticate European food commodities and improve traceability systems of food from fork back to the farm. It is hoped that improving methods to check origin and improve traceability will provide consumers with added confidence in the authenticity of European foods. The Agency co-funds three of the WPs dealing with authenticity methodology.
Research Approach: <UL> <LI> WP1 – Food origin mapping involved the collection and analysis of ground water and soil samples across Europe, as well as, analysing authentic foods with strong links to their geographical origin. This included analysing natural mineral waters, honey and lamb for the biological isotopic ratios, multi-elements and strontium 87. The aim was to correlate all of the data in the food sample collection with the geochemical and geoclimatic data in order to be able to model and predict the levels of these in the foods from any geographical location, within the geographic boundaries of collection. The model could then be used to produce a specification of these different analytes that characterise the food, and which can be used to trace the origin of the food commodities and ensure its authenticity along the food chain.
<LI>WP2 – This group examined the use of different fingerprinting spectroscopic methods such as NIR, FTIR, high resolution NMR to authenticate foods produced within a defined geographical area or by specific production methods. Characterisation of the food is achieved using statistical analysis of the fingerprints to give rapid, cost effective methods and in some cases specific markers can be identified.
<LI>WP3 – This WP is using molecular biology techniques to develop rapid methods for species, breeds or variety in foods with strong links to their geographical origin such as cattle and honey.
Results and findings: The following work has been carried out. WP1’s work has analysed 469 soil and water samples, and 296 food samples (wheat, honey, olive oil and lamb) for light isotopes; 147 ground water samples, and 435 food samples (mineral water, lamb, wheat, honey and olive oil) for multi-elements; and 853 soil and ground water samples and 371 food samples for strontium. All these values have been used to draw up specification prediction models. The model was used to predict the specification of natural mineral waters based on geographic location and geology of the water table. A ‘blind’ challenge trial to test techniques developed within the TRACE project for mineral water analysis, provided good results and showed the model developed is fit for purpose.<P>
WP2 has analysed 182 samples of honey by high resolution NMR, to develop a method to distinguish Corsican from non-Corsican honeys. Using genetic profiling (GP) of the data, classification of the data gave a 96.4% accuracy to distinguish between the two types of honey.
WP3 has developed and validated DNA probe and primers sets (DNA strands) to different floral origins of importance to Corsican honeys (rosemary, sweet chestnut, lavender, blackberry and broom).
<p>Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the <a href="http://www.food.gov.uk/science/research/" target="_blank">Food Standards Agency Research webpage</a>.