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Waitrose implements new technology to identify origin of food products

FBR Staff Writer Published 06 May 2013

UK-based retailer Waitrose has become the first supermarket to pilot a new service in order to identify whether the geographical source of a food product is within the UK or not.

The new technology, which has been provided by Food Forensics based in the Norwich Research Park Innovation Centre, uses a process called as 'stable isotope ratio analysis' (SIRA).

Food Forensics stated that the process can determine the country of origin of food, as well as the local region from its unique 'environmental fingerprint'. These results cannot be falsified and are more reliable compared with paperwork.

Waitrose Supermarkets Agronomy technical manager Alan Wilson said that the retailer uses every means at disposal to understand food authenticity.

"This not only helps build consumer confidence, but also strengthens relationships with our British suppliers," Wilson added.

Wilson has played a role in testing Food Forensics' technology with some of the company's own British suppliers.

Food Forensics analyses the isotope ratios of five elements - carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and sulphur - using which the company identifies the geographical source of a food product with incredible precision. It compares the product's isotope profile or 'environmental fingerprint' to known samples in its British database.

If the results show that the product's origin is outside the UK, the company uses stable isotope mapping to determine the most likely area it came from and compare the results to the paper trail in order to assure no falsification occurs.

The tests could also part of due-diligence checks at food packaging establishments that pack produce sourced from different countries.

Food Forensics owns a database of British products, using which it is able to test and continue to add to this database over time. The company is partnering with scientists from across the NorwichResearchPark on a range of topics.