Thesis subject

Food Authenticity and Integrity

Topic 1. Towards a robust tool to assess fraud vulnerability of company in complex supply networks.

Food ingredients are sourced globally nowadays, with price being the main governing feature. The food supply chain network has become very extensive, which increased its susceptibility to fraud. Food fraud covers issues with composition, processing, shelf-life, geographical origin as well as production practice (e.g. organic). Recently, cases of meat fraud received considerable media attention (e.g. horse-meat scandal). Fraud may relate to the species of meat and the meat content in a product, but also processing (injection of water; defrosted meat sold for fresh), the geographical origin, and production practice (organic). Rather than looking at specific incidents, a system analysis approach is preferred in order to prevent fraud in the future. For both policymakers and food industry there is a need for tools to systematically assess the vulnerability to fraud in food supply chains from various perspectives such as the offender, organisation and chain, and analytical perspective (how well can fraud be detected with current techniques). In anticipation to these needs, various initiatives are currently undertaken (USP guideline, PAS96, GMA guideline, BRC, SSAFE), but each follows a different approach.  
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In a previous student project, an analytical framework has been developed to get insight from a systems perspective in technological and social (people) factors increasing the risk on fraud in meat supply networks based on in-depth theory analysis and expert interviews. In the previous student project, the possibilities for fraud with beef were inventoried, the beef meat chain mapped and analysed, people factors in fraud studied, as well as market economics providing fraud opportunities. Currently this analytical framework is further elaborated into a vulnerability assessment tool in the frame of SSAFE. However, many other initiatives are running.

The aim of the study thesis is to perform a concise literature analysis to evaluate the preliminary fraud risk assessment tool and to compare the structure, approach and content it with other tools that have been developed recently. Based on this analysis, modifications can be made, and the tool should be validated and evaluated in practice.

For more information please contact Saskia van Ruth.

Topic 2. Chocolate: linking sustainability to flavor composition and release.

Novel analytical techniques are able to measure naturally occurring compositional characteristics of chocolate which in turn may demarcate the place and way of production/processing of sustainable chocolate and chocolate ingredients. This will ultimately improve the traceability of sustainable chocolate.

In this student project you will examine the release of volatiles from chocolates during consumption, in order to examine differences due to origin and production system (e.g. organic, sustainable). Volatile release will be measured by Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometry in the nose of volunteers while they are consuming the chocolates. You will set up a method to measure adequately in the nose of people. Subsequently, a representative set of chocolates will be analyzed. Data will be subjected to statistical analysis in order to examine the different patterns observed and to link origin/production of chocolate to their flavor (volatile) characteristics.

For more information please contact Valentina Acierno.


Topic 3. How to detect fraud with spices?

Herbs and spices are costly commodities, vulnerable to adulterations. An example of food adulteration is the blending of the spices with lower value ingredients to increase own economic benefit. In this case, other parties in the chain and consumers are deceived. Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus. Prices of saffron may be go up to €7,500 per kg, which makes the spice susceptible to adulteration. Typical adulterations include mixing in extraneous substances like beets, pomegranate fibers, red-dyed silk fibers, or the saffron crocus's tasteless and odorless yellow stamens. To support saffron production and genuine trade, measures against deliberate adulterations are required. The general project aims at improvement of non-targeted analytical fingerprint methods which could be used for screening for anomalies.
In this student project you will develop methodology to analyse different grades and adulterations of saffron. A fingerprint type method based on mass spectrometry will be used and adapted for saffron. The method will be compared with the colorimetric ISO method for grading saffron which is based on spectroscopy. Eventually, retail samples will be collected and tested with the newly developed method.

For more information in this topic please contact Isabelle Silvis.