Publications

Opportunities for fraudsters : When would profitable milk adulterations go unnoticed by common, standardized FTIR measurements?

Yang, Yuzheng; Hettinga, Kasper A.; Erasmus, Sara W.; Pustjens, Annemieke M.; Ruth, Saskia M. van

Summary

Milk is regarded as one of the top food products susceptible to adulteration where its valuable components are specifically identified as high-risk indicators for milk fraud. The current study explores the impact of common milk adulterants on the apparent compositional parameters of milk from the Dutch market as measured by standardized Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. More precisely, it examines the detectability of these adulterants at various concentration levels using the compositional parameters individually, in a univariate manner, and together in a multivariate approach. In this study we used measured boundaries but also more practical variance-adjusted boundaries to set thresholds for detection of adulteration. The potential economic impact of these adulterations under a milk payment scheme is also evaluated. Twenty-four substances were used to produce various categories of milk adulterations, each at four concentration levels. These substances comprised five protein-rich adulterants, five nitrogen-based adulterants, seven carbohydrate-based adulterants, six preservatives and water, resulting in a set of 360 samples to be analysed. The results showed that the addition of protein-rich adulterants, as well as dicyandiamide and melamine, increased the apparent protein content, while the addition of carbohydrate-based adulterants, whey protein isolate, and skimmed milk powder, increased the apparent lactose content. When considering the compositional parameters univariately, especially protein- and nitrogen-based adulterants did not raise a flag of unusual apparent concentrations at lower concentration levels. Addition of preservatives also went unnoticed. The multivariate approach did not improve the level of detection. Regarding the potential profit of milk adulteration, whey protein and corn starch seem particularly interesting. Combining the artificial inflation of valuable components, the resulting potential profit, and the gaps in detection, it appears that the whey protein isolates deserve particular attention when thinking like a criminal.