Sunday 29 March, 2020

Jamaica representing the Caribbean in global fraud food fight

Jamaica is the only Caribbean country to be included in an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) five-year research project that is geared at assisting countries in combatting fraud in high-value food products, such as premium honey, coffee and speciality rice varieties.

The project was launched recently, and is to be carried out in co-operation with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), which is to refine methods to apply nuclear-derived techniques to test for accuracy in food labels.

Other participating countries include China, Costa Rica, Denmark, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Morocco, Myanmar, New Zealand, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand and Uruguay.

“Numerous foods are sold at premium prices because of specific production methods or geographical origins,” said project co-ordinator and IAEA food safety specialist, Simon Kelly. “In order to protect consumers from fraud and potential unintended food safety issues, we need standardised methods to confirm that the product has the characteristics that are claimed on the label.”

The project is to assist countries implement stable isotope techniques to protect and promote foods with added value, including organic food or products with specific geographical origins like Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. The method works by providing a unique fingerprint that links a crop to the place where it is cultivated.

Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is among the most expensive in the world, and is renowned for its strong aroma and acid levels, making it a prime candidate for counterfeiting.

Researcher at the International Centre for Environment and Nuclear Sciences in Jamaica, Leslie Ann Hoo-Fung, said protection of the country’s world-famous coffee and other products from food fraud is of much significance.

“It is really important for us to protect our coffee. We want to apply nuclear techniques to differentiate Blue Mountain from High Mountain coffee, for example, as they command different price points,” the researcher said.

Jamaica will also seek to apply the technique to other premium national commodities, such as cocoa and rum.

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