– Your laboratory is engaged in the identification of foreign DNA in food. You research different products, you own patented and registered test systems for detecting contamination and falsification. What exactly do experts understand by falsification of products?
– Most often, by falsification, we understand the partial substitution of a more expensive product for a cheaper one. For example, when honey obtained from sunflower fields is added to expensive buckwheat honey. Or add cow’s milk to goat’s milk. When a turkey sausage contains only 20% turkey meat. But there is also a complete substitution: for example, when there is no rabbit in rabbit meat sausages. Expensive meat is replaced by cheap, chicken and pork.
– In which product groups is falsification most common?
– Falsification is typical for the entire food industry: this is milk, and meat, and honey, and canned food – everything that is profitable to falsify.
Federal State Budgetary Scientific Institution of the Federal Scientific Center for Food Systems. V. M. Gorbatov RAS
– And if the package says “made according to GOST”?
“This is a serious claim that the product will not be falsified, because the composition of such products is known and can be easily checked using certified and standardized methods. But fewer and fewer such goods appear on our shelves, because our GOSTs are voluntary, they can not be fulfilled.
– Of course, no one says to a technologist: “Break the law.” This is always done underground. A large enterprise will never go for targeted falsification, because this is a loss of reputation. Moreover, the entire turnover of raw materials of animal origin is tracked by the Federal State Information System “Mercury”. Basically, small businesses falsify products – it is very difficult to track what they bought and where they spent it.
In addition, there are “opportunity zones” in the legislation that can also be used. For example, you can not indicate the species of animal proteins. For example, the manufacturer writes that the product contains beef and animal protein. And this is a collagen protein derived from pork skin. You can write on the packaging that this product is not made according to GOST, but according to TU (technical specifications), that is, according to its own recipe.
If an enterprise does something according to specifications, it is very difficult to make claims, since the formulation of this product is a priori unknown.
But if an enterprise wants to produce products in accordance with GOST, it must comply with its requirements.
– It turns out that it is unprofitable for the enterprise to follow GOST?
– Unprofitable from an economic point of view. Therefore, there are fewer and fewer products created in compliance with GOST in stores.
Has this happened in the last year?
– I think that this trend has been going on for the last five years.
– If a manufacturer produces sausage according to his own recipe, how can he save on ingredients?
– Sausage according to TU can be filled with any cheap components. Let’s say on the label to write: “Poultry meat: turkey, chicken.”If the buyer reads: “Turkey, chicken” – it seems to him that since the turkey is in the first place, then there are a lot of them. But in fact, chicken there can be 90%, and turkeys 10%.
– Do you think that in the coming years the number of products manufactured according to specifications will grow?
– Probably yes. Enterprises produce GOST products mainly to strengthen their brand: “We are Enterprise X, we produce Doctor’s sausage, and it is really tasty.” People try it, they like it and there is confidence in the manufacturer. After all, if a manufacturer knows how to make good “Doctor’s” sausage, then other products, at least of a similar valuable segment, are worthy of him.
— How does falsification of products usually occur within the enterprise?
– Differently. There is a primitive falsification: a disposable LLC is taken, which in the basement does something for the same incomprehensible shop. They say that the sausage is made from beef, and there is 90% chicken. This is a deliberate falsification, we have identified such cases. From the last:investigated cuttings from dry-cured reindeer meat. We look, and there is no smell of reindeer, it does not exist as a class!
– Elk meat began to be sold in canned food. Moose inside?
– There is no moose in most cases there at all. So is wild boar meat. Try to distinguish the meat of a wild boar from the meat of an ordinary pig. This is a marketing ploy, plus the meat in these canned food is boiled in autoclaves so that it is almost impossible to understand the flavors.
– Are there any other examples where the label does not completely match what is actually contained in the product?
– There are plenty of examples. At one time, together with the National Center for the Safety of Aquatic Products and Aquaculture, we began to develop test systems for identifying fish species. Conducted a control purchase of cod fillets in large chain stores. No cod was found in any package. Pollock, haddock – anything but cod. There are no methods of control, so you can hooligan.
After the information about the introduction of methods for identifying the composition passed, the manufacturer realized that now he would be fined. And he began to falsify the product in a different way. A large package, in it, for example, five pieces of fish fillet. They put one cod fillet, four pollock. You can’t tell them apart from the outside. Qualitative reaction (yes/no) on cod DNA will show its presence.
– And what is put in the sausage?
– In the sausage, it is allowed to use chicken melange – an egg semi-finished product. An unscrupulous manufacturer, when chicken DNA was found in its products, stated that it was not a chicken, it was a chicken egg or melange. Only a quantitative technique can distinguish what is put into the product – undeclared chicken meat or permitted melange.
Having approved this method, we conducted a study of sausages produced in accordance with GOSTs, and in one of them we found more than 20% of chicken meat. The manufacturer sang a famous song about the added melange, however,20% melange is no longer sausage, but scrambled eggs! Now we have quantitative methods that give a clear idea of how much of what is added.
– Meat products are falsified mainly with chicken?
– Yes. Therefore, we have developed and registered a test system that allows you to detect chicken. This is a qualitative and quantitative test.
– Do you find her by DNA?
– Yes. Given the availability of a standard sample, we recalculate this for the entire product. That is, we say, for example: we found 2% of the chicken meat ingredient in minced pork. This opportunity is given by the standard sample, which we have made and registered.
— Was it difficult to register a reference material?
— Yes, it was difficult, because for a long time there was no concept of a matrix standard sample in the Russian metrological system.
— What does he represent?
— This is a specially prepared minced meat, well homogenized, dried and with standard properties.
– Didn’t such a model exist before?
— Matrix standard samples of food products did not exist. In the mining industry, for example, matrix samples of various ores, rocks, and so on have been developed, but not in the food industry.
– In the USSR, did not counterfeit products?
– In the USSR, it was quite difficult to falsify anything. However, of course, they falsified, but they dealt with it differently. There was an OBKhSS, if someone was suspected of fraud, all documentation was seized, what and how much was purchased, where it was written off. Control methods were an auxiliary element. Now that’s not possible.
— What is a standardized sample of chicken meat?
All chickens have sections of DNA that contain the same sequences. In the same way, in humans: there is a part of DNA that is characteristic, in principle, for all people, but there are also such sections by which it is possible to establish the identity of a single person. We found such a universal part of chicken DNA and made a standardized sample with the same content of species-specific DNA in the matrix composition of minced meat.
– So, you laid the foundation for a collection of such samples?
– Yes. Gradually we will do all types of meat. Now we are trying on a pig.
What is the easiest thing to falsify in meat products?
– Minced meat, meatballs, sausage products. Everything that is somehow crushed. Another thing is if you buy a chilled carcass or cut. You can easily distinguish a turkey carcass from a chicken carcass. Pork cut from beef. The maximum that can be done with them is to pump them up.
– How? Water?
– Water with various food additives that increase the water-holding capacity of meat. But then it will flow from you or, when you put it in the oven, it will shrink by one and a half times.
– Can you determine in your laboratory how many times or how long the meat has been frozen?
– Yes it is possible. This can be seen in the structure of meat fibers. It is necessary to obtain a histological section of the fibers and compare it with the reference image from the atlas.
– Freeze periods are often violated?
– No. After all, at the expiration date, you can develop another product, and from this product – the next one.