Authentication of sustainable foods receives more attention

Published on
December 14, 2012

Saskia van Ruth at RIKILT Wageningen UR was recently named professor (by special appointment) of Food Authenticity and Integrity. She will be concentrating on research into the specific characteristics of foodstuffs, especially those produced in a socially responsible manner. Examples include organic eggs, meat, tomatoes, wine, grains and vegetables, but also sustainable palm oil, dairy milk, fair trade coffee and meat with an ‘ethical meat’ trademark. She is also interested in criminological factors that determine the role played by some people/organisations in food authenticity.

During the last few years at RIKILT, Van Ruth has developed some innovative methods for demonstrating the authenticity of foodstuffs and other natural products. There is considerable interest in the subject worldwide so she believes food authenticity will have an increasingly significant role to play. Consumers are interested, but so are producers, retailers, distributors and regulatory authorities. After all, no one likes to be deceived. Unfortunately, food fraud is as old as humanity and is getting more and more ingenious. That means more advanced research techniques are necessary to check product identity and to discover or prevent fraud. This particularly applies when it is impossible to see from the outside of foodstuffs how they have been produced.

An investigation of food authenticity involves looking in detail at the composition of product groups using special analytical methods and calculation models. Researchers can fingerprint the product group, to which unknown products can then be compared.

Van Ruth’s part-time chair comes under the Chair Group Food Quality and Design (until recently: Product Design and Quality Management) at Wageningen University. She remains attached to RIKILT where she leads the Authenticity and Novel Foods Business Unit