Screening Natural Colours for Adulteration: Certasure™ Food Safety Program in Action
Food Safety Heightens to an All Time High
Although food safety in the European Union has become strictly observed since the implementation of basic food regulation in 2002 along with local regulations, such as the German Food and Feed Code (LFGB), foodborne illnesses still occur each year. On average there is about 5.000 reported outbreaks involving more than 40.000 individuals, the European Union reports in the 2018 Zoonoses Report.
Whilst the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) is in place to ensure a swift reaction to incidences in which the public health is at risk, Sensient fully supports promoting this transparency at an ingredient level. Sensient’s Certasure™ program ensures that all of our colouring from natural sources and formulation with natural raw materials are safe and free of adulterated substances and other contaminates.
In fact, in early 2020, one of our global Sensient sites rejected a shipment of red cabbage due to adulteration. Through this screening process, we detected contamination of two lots of red cabbage with purple sweet potato. Analytical testing of the suspect lots compared with standard colour sources indicated components not commonly found in red cabbage but typically characteristic of purple sweet potato. This shipment was rejected as contaminated and returned to the vendor, a perfect example of exactly why a robust food safety program like Certasure™ is needed.
This blog is part of an ongoing series sharing details about each of our robust screening processes.
Click one of the links below to find out more:
Our Certasure Adulteration Screening Process
Sensient’s adulteration screening process ensures all of our incoming natural raw materials are free from contaminants like synthetic dyes or other additives that adulterate the product.
There is a zero-tolerance policy for adulterants.
Our oversight on adulteration of natural materials is extremely vigilant, as Sensient is on the RASFF’s notification list to be amongst the first to hear if an adulterant is flagged by a raw material vendor globally.
In our first screening blog, we discussed our use of HorizonScan, which is an important tool for us to stay up to date on current risk matrixes and remain aware of potentially relevant global environmental events that could impact food safety.
Two Ways Adulteration Occurs In Supply Chains
Adulteration may occur maliciously or for economic gain, whether to dilute a raw material so it can be “stretched” further or to increase its weight or volume to inflate pricing.
Check out this video to see an example of how we helped a leading beverage brand identify a case of intentional adulteration.
It would be much more likely for adulteration to occur by accident. Natural raw materials absorb things indiscriminately from the air, water, and soil around them. If the groundwater or soil in a field has been contaminated, that will get into the crop. This issue can be further exacerbated by the concentration process that many crops go through in order to extract the natural colour.
In teaching farmers about potential situations resulting in accidental adulteration, we highlight these scenarios:
Using the same equipment for harvesting multiple crops:
If the same equipment is used to harvest beets first and then black carrots, without proper attention and cleaning, colour/chemicals from the first crop could contaminate the second.
Spraying pesticides in a nearby field:
The wind may carry pesticides through the air across multiple fields, contaminating a colour crop unintentionally.
Storing or transporting crops in facilities where they may mix:
If two grain-based crops are stored in close proximity, for example in an open warehouse, air currents might stir up lightweight particles from one and contaminate the other.
Action Plan for the Presence of Adulteration
As with all failures of any stage of the Certasure screening process, Sensient rejects and returns the raw material to its respective vendor. We rarely fail a raw material due to adulteration, and we have never seen a vendor knowingly adulterate one of our incoming raw materials. We do see cross-contamination of pesticides and other environmental factors.
However, we remain alert and cautious. Even vendors with a spotless record are screened with rigor to ensure that we never miss an instance of adulteration or contamination.