Fraudulent practices in food production, especially false claims of geographical origin, cause billions of dollars in economic damage every year. Botanists at the University of Basel have now developed a model that can be used to determine the origin of food in an efficient and low-cost manner.
Strawberries from Switzerland or olive oil from Italy can be sold at much higher prices than the same products from other countries. Both the authorities and the food industry spend a great deal of time fighting false declarations of geographical origin that are assumed to cause an estimated USD 30 million to 40 billion a year in economic damage.
One method for detecting food fraud is to determine the δ18O (delta-O-18) value of a product sample, which characterizes the oxygen isotope ratio. Until now, this procedure has been highly time consuming and costly. A case of suspected fraud involved not only collecting reference data from the claimed country of origin, but also comparative data from other regions to validate or disprove the product’s origin.