Frequently Asked Questions
Where do records in the database come from?
How often are records entered?
Records are entered on a regular (typically, weekly or daily) basis.
What if I am aware of food fraud-related information that is not in that database?
Please notify us using the “Contact Us” link in the database in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Our team will review the information and enter it into the database, if applicable.
How far does the Food Fraud Database go back in history?
While the Food Fraud Database has records dating back to the 1800s, the focus of the database is on information since 1980.
How many ingredients are in the database?
There are more than 4,000 ingredients in the database. Additional ingredients are added regularly. If you would like to suggest an ingredient to be added to the database, please contact us using the “Contact Us” link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
How many records are in the database?
There are currently more than 8,500 records in the database, with new ones added almost daily. One can find the total number of records in the database on the Dashboard under “FFD Decernis News of Interest”.
What are the definitions of the various record types in the database?
An “incident” is a documented occurrence of food fraud in a food ingredient or product within a defined time frame. Incidents are often reported in the media and tend to include contextual and supporting information about the perpetrator, motive, geographic location, and/or other characteristics. An “inference” record is an indication of probable knowledge of food fraud adulteration without sufficient documentation to be classified as an incident. Often, an inference record is created from published research conducted to develop detection methods for adulterants in particular ingredients. Inference records are also created to document the specific combinations of ingredients and adulterants resulting from general surveillance testing in the marketplace. A “surveillance” record documents a report of sampling and testing of foods or ingredients in specified geographic locations or at multiple points along the supply chain to gain knowledge about the scope or prevalence of fraud. This type of market sampling is typically conducted by regulatory agencies, trade organizations, or other interest groups, and may also occur as part of published research regarding analytical detection methods. A “method” record provides information on an analytical method for detecting food adulteration or authenticating food ingredients that has been published in a scholarly report.
How is “Weight of Evidence” determined for incident records?
Incident records are evaluated with respect to the weight of evidence of the references that support them. For example, well-documented incidents with associated scientific or legal documentation (such as melamine adulteration of milk) are assigned a “high” weight of evidence. Incidents with only media sources as references, unsupported by associated regulatory or other documentation, may be assigned either a “medium” or “low” weight of evidence. The framework for assigning “weight of evidence” determinations can be requested by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
Are Decernis-curated System Ingredient groups guaranteed to be all inclusive?
The FFD System Ingredient Groups are not guaranteed to be all inclusive. They are a starting point for searching within the database and can be copied and edited as needed by users. Where applicable, we have included helpful information in the “notes” for each group, for example: “the nutritive sweeteners group does not include honey.” Please review the ingredients included in the group to determine if they are applicable to your needs. If you feel an ingredient is missing from a System Ingredient Group, please contact us at email@example.com.
Can I find company names in the database?
The FFD does not include information about company names in the data that we extract. Company names are often not reported and can change over time. An assessment of the overall food fraud history of a given ingredient is one useful indicator of potential future risk, and we have structured the data in FFD to provide this information. For evaluating supplier-related risks, we suggest the organization-specific approach outlined in the USP Food Fraud Mitigation Guidance, an appendix in the USP Food Chemicals Codex (FCC). Finally, every record in the FFD is linked to a primary source reference. Therefore, users of FFD who are interested in specific company names may be able to access that information in the primary source reference document.
Can I search for multiple record types simultaneously?
The Decernis Food Fraud Database structure uses multiple record types to enable users to quickly identify the information most useful to them. These record types may be thought of as the lenses through which food fraud information is presented. As a result, information from one reference may be included in two (or more) separate records. Therefore, the Search interface does not allow simultaneous searching by all record types. This minimizes the display of multiple records that share a common reference.
Are my searches confidential?
Can anyone else see the groups I create?
The groups that one creates are specific to that user profile and cannot be viewed by anyone else.
Can I integrate data and ingredients from my internal company system into the FFD?
You can create your own ingredient groups and saved searches within the FFD, but the database is currently not designed for addition of private, company-specific information. It is not possible to directly import ingredient lists from other systems due to the wide variety of systems and naming conventions that are used. Please contact Decernis at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like assistance in creating your ingredient groups and saved searches.
Will the Food Fraud Database tell me what the economic cost is of a fraudulent or adulterated ingredient?
The intent of the FFD is to help users identify records of food fraud. An estimate of the economic cost of specific incidents is not provided. Publications about estimates of the impact of food fraud can be found here and here.
I can’t find out particular flavor ingredient in the database – what should I do?
Where applicable, we enter food fraud records for specific flavor ingredients, including natural flavoring complexes (e.g. essential oils) and flavor chemicals. We welcome the suggestion to add additional essential oils or flavor chemicals. However, there are thousands of formulated flavor products comprising multiple flavor chemicals in proprietary combinations (e.g., “Beef Barbecue Flavor”) with a wide variety of names. We do not add proprietary formulated flavor products to FFD. For companies that source flavor ingredients or proprietary formulated flavor products, we suggest using the “Flavors” ingredient group in a vulnerability assessment as a representative for any specific flavor ingredient/product.
On the geographic distribution analytics tab, why does it show that there are incidents, however no country comes up on the map or in the legend?
This indicates that there is at least one incident in the database; however, information about the location of production or distribution was not available from the references used to create the record(s).
Does the database provide information about the regulatory status of ingredient and adulterant substances?
The FFD does not provide information about the regulatory status of ingredients or adulterants. There are records in the database that describe adulteration of ingredients that do not have regulatory authorization in the U.S. It is the responsibility of the user to confirm the applicable regulatory status of ingredients and additives.
Why are certain examples of mislabeling not considered to be food fraud? (For example, horseradish sold as “wasabi” or sparkling wine sold as champagne in the U.S.)
Many foods are not subject to “standards of identity” (requirements that specifically prescribe appropriate names and compositional criteria) or “appellation of origin” requirements (restrictions on the use of specific terms to specific areas of production). In the absence of clear requirements, determining the appropriate name or composition of a food product in the marketplace can be complicated. Such decisions can take into account a variety of factors, such as national and local laws and requirements, marketplace norms, and consumer expectations, among others. The database includes records of fraud that involve reasonable evidence of intentional violation of a regulation, typical market practice, or labeling requirement.
If a company declares an allergen that is not present in the product, is it considered labeling food fraud?
Companies are responsible for labeling their products in compliance with applicable legal and regulatory requirements, including those related to declaring the presence of allergens. In some cases, companies may determine that it is appropriate to notify consumers of the potential presence of allergens, even where such allergens are not intentionally added to the food product. Such determinations are situation-dependent, and it is not possible to generalize about their appropriateness or permissibility. The decision to include voluntary or “precautionary” allergen labeling on a food product does not necessarily constitute food fraud.
Why are some seemingly non-hazardous adulterants classified as “hazardous” in the database?
An expert panel of toxicologists, food safety experts, and legal experts was convened by USP to develop a framework for categorizing adulterants in the database with respect to their hazard potential. The framework includes the provision that allergens, as identified by Codex Alimentarius, are identified as potential hazards. Therefore, any adulterant that is one of those allergens is automatically identified as a potential “hazard.” We recognize the hazard potential likely does not exist if both the ingredient and the adulterant are the same type of product (such as the substitution of organic eggs with conventionally-produced). This situation happens because the hazard classification is associated only with the adulterant, not with the combination of ingredient and adulterant. Ultimately, the decision about whether a potential adulterant is a hazard is based on situation-specific factors and should be made by qualified personnel. For more information on the Hazards Identification Framework, see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29257723.
Does food fraud apply to food packaging materials?
The concept of “food fraud” is generally understood to encompass the deliberate adulteration or mislabeling of consumable food products for the purpose of economic gain. Food packaging supply chains also may be susceptible to economically-motivated activities with a negative impact on safety or quality, e.g., deliberate substitution of inferior-quality materials. However, such activities typically are not described as “food fraud” and, therefore, are not captured in the FFD.
When does my subscription expire?
If you have questions about duration and expiration of your subscription, please contact our customer service at: decernis.com/contact
What internet browsers are supported with the Food Fraud Database?
The Food Fraud Database supports the use of Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome.
What if I am not certain I am using the FFD properly or in the most effective manner?
Please contact Decernis at email@example.com for training and/or assistance in using the FFD.