Food Adulteration

Food adulteration

Modern analytical methods for the detection of food fraud

Ever since the horsemeat scandal, the awareness of food adulteration and food fraud has heavily increased.

The varying prices and availability of food products from different origin provide opportunities for the incorrect declaration of food components, both from a quality and quantity point of view. For example, horsemeat may be labelled as beef. Such product adulterations can be detected highly specifically and quantified relatively by means of a real-time PCR (providing e.g. percentage values of the respective animal species in relation to the total quantity of meat).


In addition, the interest in animal speciation in meat products is based on religious requirements (halal and kosher). Religiously motivated inspections, particularly of pork in meat products or processed foods, do not include any technical threshold values. This means that purely qualitative and particularly sensitive tests are required especially for detecting the presence of pork. Real-time PCR is a method of choice. The effective sensitivity of applied real-time PCR tests is based on the existence of intact DNA, making sensitive detection in heavily processed foods like gelatine difficult.

However, not only meat products are being adulterated. Food fraud is widespread in fish and dairy products, too. Click one of the following categories to find out more about adulteration of different foods.

Fish adulteration

The addition or exchange of cheaper fish species instead of more expensive fish species is a known form of fraud in the food industry. This can take place accidentally due to the lack of expertise or actively as fraud.

Read more about fish adulteration

Meat adulteration

The interest in detecting animal species in meat products is based on religious demands (halal and kosher) as well as on product adulterations (e.g. the use of horse meat instead of beef).

Read more about meat adulteration

Milk adulteration

Dairy products are often adulterated due to economic considerations. For example, expensive goat milk is diluted with cheaper cow’s milk.


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