Tag Archives: Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)

Counterfeiting olive oil, honey, wine, and more

This seems like the right thing to post on April Fool’s Day (April 1, 2019) as the upcoming news item concerns fooling people although not in a any friendly, amusing way.. More pleasantly, the other story I’m including holds the possibility of foiling the would-be adulterators/counterfeiters.

The problem and blockchain anti-counterfeiting measures

Adulterating or outright counterfeiting products such as olive oil isn’t new. I’m willing to bet the ancient Greeks, Romans, Persians, Egyptians, and others were intimately familiar with the practice. It seems that 2019 might see an increase in the practice according to a March 22, 2019 article by Emma Woollacott for BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) news online,

“Fraud in the olive oil market has been going on a very long time,” says Susan Testa, director of culinary innovation at Italian olive oil producer Bellucci.

“Seed oil is added maybe; or it may contain only a small percentage of Italian oil and have oil from other countries added, while it just says Italian oil on the label.”

In February [2019] the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) warned that poor olive harvests are likely to lead to a big increase in such adulterated oil this year.

And it’s far from the only product affected, with the European Union’s Knowledge Centre for Food Fraud and Quality recently highlighting wine, honey, fish, dairy products, meat and poultry as being frequently faked.


Food suppliers, like Bellucci are making efforts to guarantee the provenance of their food themselves, using new tools such as blockchain technology.

Best-known for its role in crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, blockchain is a way of keeping records in which each block of data is time-stamped and linked irreversibly to the last, in a way that can’t be subsequently altered.

That makes it possible to keep a secure record of the product’s journey to the supermarket shelf.

Since the company was founded in 2013, Bellucci has aimed to build a reputation around the traceability of its oil. Customers can enter the lot number of a particular bottle into an app to see its precise provenance, right back to the groves where the olives were harvested.


“We expect an improvement in the exchange of information throughout the supply chain,” says Andrea Biagianti, chief information officer for Certified Origins, Bellucci’s parent company.

“We would also like the ability [to have] more transparency in the supply chain and the genuine trust of consumers.”

IBM’s Food Trust network, formally launched late last year, uses similar techniques.

“In the registration phase, you define the product and its properties – for example, the optical spectrum you see when you look at a bottle of whisky,” explains Andreas Kind, head of blockchain at IBM Research.

The appearance of the whisky is precisely recorded within the blockchain, meaning that the description can’t later be altered. Then transport companies, border control, storage providers or retailers, can see if the look of the liquid no longer matches the description or “optical signature”.

Meanwhile, labels holding tamper-proof “cryptoanchors” are fixed to the bottles. These contain tiny computers holding the product data – encrypted, or encoded, so it can’t be tampered with. The labels break when the bottle is opened.

Linking the packaging and the product in this way offers a kind of proof says Mr Kind, “a bit like when you buy a diamond and get a certificate.”


Wollacott’s March 22, 2019 article is fascinating and well worth reading in its entirety.

The honey problem and nuclear detection

Getting back to Canada, specifically, the province of British Columbia (BC), it seems honey producers are concerned that adulterated product is affecting their sales. A January 25, 2019 news article by Glenda Luymes for the Vancouver Sun describes the technology to detect the problem (Note: Links have been removed),

A high-tech honey-testing machine unveiled Thursday [January 24, 2019] in Chilliwack could help B.C. beekeepers root out “adulterated” honey imports that threaten to cheapen their product.

Using a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) machine, Peter Awram’s lab will be able to determine if cheap sweeteners, such as corn syrup or rice syrup, have been added to particular brands of honey to increase producers’ profits.

The machine will also create a “fingerprint” for each honey sample, which will be kept in a database to help distinguish premium B.C. honey from a flood of untested, adulterated honey entering Canada from around the world.

“We’d eventually like to see it lead to a certification scheme, where producers submit their honey for testing and get a label,” said Awram, who runs Worker Bee Honey Company with his parents, Jerry and Pia Awram. “It would give security to the people buying it.”

A study published in October [2018] in Scientific Reports found evidence of global honey fraud, calling honey the world’s “third-most adulterated food.” Researchers tested 100 honey samples from 18 honey-producing countries. They discovered 27 per cent of the samples were “of questionable authenticity,” while 52 of the samples from Asia were adulterated.

There’s more about honey, adulteration, and detection in this Vancouver Sun video,

You can find the Worker Bee Honey Company here and you can find a 25 minute presentation about hone and the NMR by Peter Awram for the 2018 BC Honey Producers Association annual general meeting here.

Global overview of nano-enabled food and agriculture regulation

First off, this post features an open access paper summarizing global regulation of nanotechnology in agriculture and food production. From a Sept. 11, 2015 news item on Nanowerk,

An overview of regulatory solutions worldwide on the use of nanotechnology in food and feed production shows a differing approach: only the EU and Switzerland have nano-specific provisions incorporated in existing legislation, whereas other countries count on non-legally binding guidance and standards for industry. Collaboration among countries across the globe is required to share information and ensure protection for people and the environment, according to the paper …

A Sept. 11, 2015 European Commission Joint Research Centre press release (also on EurekAlert*), which originated the news item, summarizes the paper in more detail (Note: Links have been removed),

The paper “Regulatory aspects of nanotechnology in the agri/feed/food sector in EU and non-EU countries” reviews how potential risks or the safety of nanotechnology are managed in different countries around the world and recognises that this may have implication on the international market of nano-enabled agricultural and food products.

Nanotechnology offers substantial prospects for the development of innovative products and applications in many industrial sectors, including agricultural production, animal feed and treatment, food processing and food contact materials. While some applications are already marketed, many other nano-enabled products are currently under research and development, and may enter the market in the near future. Expected benefits of such products include increased efficacy of agrochemicals through nano-encapsulation, enhanced bioavailability of nutrients or more secure packaging material through microbial nanoparticles.

As with any other regulated product, applicants applying for market approval have to demonstrate the safe use of such new products without posing undue safety risks to the consumer and the environment. Some countries have been more active than others in examining the appropriateness of their regulatory frameworks for dealing with the safety of nanotechnologies. As a consequence, different approaches have been adopted in regulating nano-based products in the agri/feed/food sector.

The analysis shows that the EU along with Switzerland are the only ones which have introduced binding nanomaterial definitions and/or specific provisions for some nanotechnology applications. An example would be the EU labelling requirements for food ingredients in the form of ‘engineered nanomaterials’. Other regions in the world regulate nanomaterials more implicitly mainly by building on non-legally binding guidance and standards for industry.

The overview of existing legislation and guidances published as an open access article in the Journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology is based on information gathered by the JRC, RIKILT-Wageningen and the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) through literature research and a dedicated survey.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Regulatory aspects of nanotechnology in the agri/feed/food sector in EU and non-EU countries by Valeria Amenta, Karin Aschberger, , Maria Arena, Hans Bouwmeester, Filipa Botelho Moniz, Puck Brandhoff, Stefania Gottardo, Hans J.P. Marvin, Agnieszka Mech, Laia Quiros Pesudo, Hubert Rauscher, Reinhilde Schoonjans, Maria Vittoria Vettori, Stefan Weigel, Ruud J. Peters. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology Volume 73, Issue 1, October 2015, Pages 463–476 doi:10.1016/j.yrtph.2015.06.016

This is the most inclusive overview I’ve seen yet. The authors cover Asian countries, South America, Africa, and the MIddle East, as well as, the usual suspects in Europe and North America.

Given I’m a Canadian blogger I feel obliged to include their summary of the Canadian situation (Note: Links have been removed),

4.2. Canada

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), who have recently joined the Health Portfolio of Health Canada, are responsible for food regulation in Canada. No specific regulation for nanotechnology-based food products is available but such products are regulated under the existing legislative and regulatory frameworks.11 In October 2011 Health Canada published a “Policy Statement on Health Canada’s Working Definition for Nanomaterials” (Health Canada, 2011), the document provides a (working) definition of NM which is focused, similarly to the US definition, on the nanoscale dimensions, or on the nanoscale properties/phenomena of the material (see Annex I). For what concerns general chemicals regulation in Canada, the New Substances (NS) program must ensure that new substances, including substances that are at the nano-scale (i.e. NMs), are assessed in order to determine their toxicological profile ( Environment Canada, 2014). The approach applied involves a pre-manufacture and pre-import notification and assessment process. In 2014, the New Substances program published a guidance aimed at increasing clarity on which NMs are subject to assessment in Canada ( Environment Canada, 2014).

Canadian and US regulatory agencies are working towards harmonising the regulatory approaches for NMs under the US-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Nanotechnology Initiative.12 Canada and the US recently published a Joint Forward Plan where findings and lessons learnt from the RCC Nanotechnology Initiative are discussed (Canada–United States Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) 2014).

Based on their summary of the Canadian situation, with which I am familiar, they’ve done a good job of summarizing. Here are a few of the countries whose regulatory instruments have not been mentioned here before (Note: Links have been removed),

In Turkey a national or regional policy for the responsible development of nanotechnology is under development (OECD, 2013b). Nanotechnology is considered as a strategic technological field and at present 32 nanotechnology research centres are working in this field. Turkey participates as an observer in the EFSA Nano Network (Section 3.6) along with other EU candidate countries Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Montenegro (EFSA, 2012). The Inventory and Control of Chemicals Regulation entered into force in Turkey in 2008, which represents a scale-down version of the REACH Regulation (Bergeson et al. 2010). Moreover, the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning published a Turkish version of CLP Regulation (known as SEA in Turkish) to enter into force as of 1st June 2016 (Intertek).

The Russian legislation on food safety is based on regulatory documents such as the Sanitary Rules and Regulations (“SanPiN”), but also on national standards (known as “GOST”) and technical regulations (Office of Agricultural Affairs of the USDA, 2009). The Russian policy on nanotechnology in the industrial sector has been defined in some national programmes (e.g. Nanotechnology Industry Development Program) and a Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies was established in 2007.15 As reported by FAO/WHO (FAO/WHO, 2013), 17 documents which deal with the risk assessment of NMs in the food sector were released within such federal programs. Safe reference levels on nanoparticles impact on the human body were developed and implemented in the sanitary regulation for the nanoforms of silver and titanium dioxide and, single wall carbon nanotubes (FAO/WHO, 2013).

Other countries included in this overview are Brazil, India, Japan, China, Malaysia, Iran, Thailand, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, US, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, and the countries of the European Union.

*EurekAlert link added Sept. 14, 2015.