Electronic Authentication of Organic Foods
The availability on the market of adulterated food products has caused a number of health issues. In response to this, people are now moving towards the use of organic food products which are produced naturally, safely, healthily and of higher quality. In addition, some new electronic technologies were created to ensure that these organic items are properly labeled.
In the present times, human health is degrading fast due to available reasons such as dependency on technology, lack of hard work, and adulterated food products available in the market. Adulteration of food products (whether raw or cooked) takes place at every level be it cultivation, production, marketing, or consumer levels. Therefore, people are drawn to organic food products, whose worldwide demand is continuously growing. Consumers prefer to buy organic food goods because they believe they are grown naturally, safely, healthily and of better quality. Organic food products are produced without the use of pesticides and weedicides, which may influence organic food products’ chemical composition.
Organic food and its labeling
Organic food products are produced using methods which comply with specific standards of organic farming, but which may vary worldwide. Private and government entities control the cultivation and distribution of organic goods by limiting the use of farming practices of some pesticides, weedicides and fertilizers, as well as the use of irradiation, chemical solvents or synthetic food additives.
The labeling of organic food products is the need of the hour to strengthen consumers’ trust. Organic products often have a number of labels on them depending on the place of their origin and testing, but the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic label remains the one, which is federally certified only by the accredited agents. Here are some of the general standards fixed for the production and processing of food products, which can then be labeled or certified as organic:
- Food products are grown and processed on the basis of many factors, such as soil quality, pest and weed control and additive use, according to the guidelines.
- Producers depend on on natural substances and farming methods based on physical, mechanical, or biological factors.
- Crop is classified as organic if it is grown on soil which has not used any banned substances (pesticides, weedicides, and fertilizers) three years before harvest.
- Likewise, in the case of organic meat, the regulations allow animals to be higher in living conditions suited to their natural behavior, to feed hundred per cent organic feed and forage and not to use hormones or antibiotics.
- In regard to processed multi-ingredient foods, the organic requirements specify additional rules that ban artificial preservatives, colors or flavors, and include organic ingredients from them.
No organic food is cultivated or treated using genetically modified organisms.
A comparison between conventional and organic food products
With only a few known variations between nutrient and anti-nutrient content of organically and conventionally grown foods, the complex nature of food processing, shipping, storage and handling, the findings are difficult to generalize the results. Moreover, from the scientific and consumer viewpoint, there is insufficient evidence to support the arguments that consuming organic products is better or healthier than traditional foods. Also, the few arguments that organic food tastes better do not receive help from research. In addition, organic farming has higher production costs and lower yields, and therefore higher market prices compared to conventional agriculture.
But still, the demand for organic food is high as consumers are concerned about their personal health and environment. Becoming familiar with the organic label and understanding its claim empower consumers to make informed decisions about the food they purchase. Consumers can look for the identity of the certifier on a packaged product for verifying that the organic product meets organic standards. However, some people are always trying to sell conventional food as organic to earn more money.
The consumer’s interest in organic foods are increasing, and so is the need for robust analytical tools for their authenticate labeling and certification as organic. The certification of food products as ‘organic’ is protected by laws in every country and can be used by producers who have received official certification according to standards. Organic food production is being grown as a self-regulated sector in some countries. The food products sold as organic need to be produced in a manner that complies with the organic requirements established by national governments and international trade organizations in the organic industry.
On these lines, currently, farmers are required by the European Union, the United States, Canada, Japan and several other countries to receive special certification based on government-defined food marketing requirements as organic. Products are tested for authenticity before being certified as organic. This certification provides customers with an assurance that organic food products were produced and processed except the plague and artificial fertilizers, which do not contain pollutants.
There are different biomarkers/analytical approaches available for the authentication of organic produce. Organic food research laboratories facilities are also used to evaluate organic foods for their nutritional value and the additional health benefits they may be claiming. Food testing assure consumers that the products they purchase are authentically organic.
India’s FSSAI–Food Safety and Standards Authority has recently operationalized the 2017 Food Health and Standards Regulation (Organic Foods) to maintain food quality and protection. Such services are offered by food testing laboratories to ensure that organic food processing, as well as manufactured foods, is free of chemical and microbial contaminants. Before certifying foodstuffs, certifying authorities such as the National Organic Production Program (NPOP) and Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) India do requires research reports from organic food testing laboratories confirming that organic foods do not contain pesticide residues, heavy metals, antibiotics, etc.
The complete compliance with regulations in marking food products as organic is not strictly monitored due to the hand and glove approach between the regulation enforcement agencies and producers. Therefore, non-organic foods are often being falsely labelled and marketed as organic foods. There are several chemical and electronic methods in use for the authentication of organic foods, but taking into consideration the easy handling and non-invasive nature of electronic methods, this article only highlights the growth in electronic authentication of organic foods.
Currently, there is an increase in consumer awareness about the quality and authenticity of the food. Despite ever-growing health issues at present, an increasing number of customers are willing to pay extra for fruits, vegetables and other food products labeled organic. Now scientists studying conventional and organic foods are devising new ways, in general, and electronic methods, in particular, to make sure farms are labeling their products appropriately, which could help in preventing organic food frauds and cheating of consumers.
Electronic sensors are now used for food analysis, because they require less time and operate at lower cost per analysis compared to other techniques.
1. Authenticating supplier’s identity and data on organic food products
The e-authentication or digital authentication of the organic food product supplier may be used when denoting the electronic authentication process, that confirms or certifies the identity and function of an individual. At a time when fraud and identity theft have become widespread, electronic authentication may be a more reliable way of checking the identity of the supplier.
There are different forms of e-authentication that can be used to authenticate the identity of the manufacturer, as well as data on organic food items ranging from passwords to higher levels of protection using multi factor authentication (MFA). If utilized in combination with an electronic signature, it can provide evidence that data on organic food items received / reported have been tampered after the original sender has been signed.
In the sense of electronic authentication, a fast response code, a type of 2D bar code is applied to provide easy access to information using a smartphone or a QR scanner. Information such as authentication code, grower code, name, place, contact number, Facebook URL, production date, expiry date, and URL of the regulatory authority about authentic organic growers may be embedded in the QR code that can be traced easily at no cost. The concept of implementing a QR code-based labeling system for organic goods greatly increases the trustworthiness of organic consumers.
2. Electronic food analyzer.
Immediate testing is necessary instead of sending food samples for review to costly food testing laboratories and waiting for tests. In this end, we need electronic equipment that we can use on our own in authenticate infected food items. OrganaDx (developed by MyDx, Inc., USA) acts as a initial tester before food products go to testing laboratories.
This detects dangerous chemicals in food in a matter of minutes. Today, the analyzer provides one of the most realistic food quality control solutions for clients. It is a battery-operated portable electronic analyzer for clients that include a sensor for evaluating some pesticides and helps to test cannabis plants, fruits and vegetables for their health.
OrganaDx is the most effective food safety tester for detecting pesticides in food, ensuring we do not ingest potentially toxic cancer-causing pesticides at unhealthy levels without understanding it. This also includes testing of the heavy metal food content to see if it’s safe for consumption.
The computer is about the size of two iPhone 5s stacked together to fit into the palm of a hand. It has a small chamber where the sample is placed in order to provide a thorough study of the different chemicals in it. The analyzer is connected via Bluetooth to a smart phone app that people can use to monitor their results. The data will be exchanged (but the information about the person entering the data will be hidden) so that the others will benefit as well.
3. Electronic noses and tongues.
One of the major health risks is adulteration of agricultural goods due to the use of pesticides, weedicides and fertilizers during production and the use of chemicals on the way to the customers. The concern for the quality of food products is important to manufacturers, distributors, retailers, customers and national governments.
Electronic tongue and nose in the food industry authenticate samples of various consumer product categories. It is a simple and efficient technique that involves no special preparation of a sample to assess the quality of a product for the determination of food authenticity, including adulteration. The use of these instruments includes electronic products from advanced chemical and physical sciences, coupled with intuitive integration of microprocessors, advanced bioinformatics and statistics.
4. Block chain and organic food.
To ensure whether or not we are consuming authentic chemical-free food produce calls the need for a technology solution that can help resolve issues in one of the most effective, trusted, regulated, and consumer driven food systems in the world. A new system to electronically certify organic products and ingredients has come into force, promising to tighten traceability, fight fraud, and collect reliable data on organic trade. The e-system (block chain) tracks the movement of food products across the world. This aims to reduce fraud risks by providing greater transparency in the supply of organic products to consumers.
The block chain was born with crypto currencies but is now growing in every sector where transactions take place. The block chain is the technological basis of a platform in which those who participate in the supply chain interact with each other. It is an ecosystem in which from the suppliers and growers of organic seeds to commercial operators and certified processing companies, all are connected at different levels.
Block chain—a distributed ledger technology offers the much-required traceability and transparency in an otherwise complex food supply chain by preventing fraudulence and ensuring the authenticity of products to the consumers. Besides capturing data at every point within the supply chain ecosystem, a cloud and IoT powered block chain system also ensures that it is shared amongst every supply chain participant such as farmer, manufacturer, supplier, distributor, and finally the consumer. The security of data is the immutability element of block chain, which adds an additional level of security and prohibits any sort of fraudulent activity.
5. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.
Figuring out whether a fruit or vegetable has been grown under organic conditions is full of complications. The most reliable authentication technique currently used is based on analyzing the stable isotope composition of nitrogen in food products, which is also not foolproof. Scientists and engineers are looking towards the use of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to authenticate food products, including honey and olive oil. New methods with the potential to authenticate different organic foods based on the use of NMR technology are under development.
In conclusion, the development of fast, cost-effective, non-destructive, and portable electronic authentication techniques to certify the organic food products in the near future will be of great help for consumers to have healthy consumption of food and a safe environment.
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