We all use herbs and spices to flavour our dishes. Not only do they add more taste to our food, often they also add color. And you know what they say: "When it comes to food, you first eat with your eyes."
Next to that, herbs and spices are used for their healing abilities as well. Cayenne is a booster for the metabolism and acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Cinnamon significantly lowers the blood sugar. Nutmeg has strong antibacterial properties. It's been found to kill bacteria in the mouth that contribute to cavities. Chilli powder helps to maintain blood pressure, assists in red blood cell formation, supports the digestive system,...
Unfortunately, spices are at extremely high risk of food fraud. The global herb and spice industry is valued at approximately $ 4 billion and is still growing. Ground spices, powders and blends are commonly adulterated with fillers such as semolina or additives to enhance their apparent value such as colouring agents.
Cinnamon is replaced by or mixed with cassia bark. 60% of India's exported powdered nutmeg has been adulterated with cheaper Bombay mace. Chilli powder is also adulterated with cheap fillers to increase its weight, including dust and chilli stalks. Scientists also found sudan dye (synthetic chemical dye) in chilli powder.
The list of adulterations in food and spices is endless, and mostly based on the following principles:
- Mix your raw material with an inferior raw material
- Add more color to your product
- Add more weight to your product
Today, a lot of these deeds go unpunished. There is more often little to no obligation endorsed by the government to verify the authenticity of these products before selling them to consumers. Also, who is responsible? The retailer who sells the products often relies on his good relation with the distributor. The distributor probably has good faith in his producer. But at the end of the day, 60% of the product still is adulterated. Some retailers check their products on a regular basis. However, this is still limited today to 5 to 10 checks or less on a yearly basis. Not enough to keep your distributor on his toes.
The reason for this is the cost. Sending a sample to a lab will cost around $ 30 and you have to wait 2 to 3 days before getting a result. Your product will probably be already sold.
Luckily, the future looks bright. Thanks to today's new technologies such as NIR spectroscopy combined with machine learning, it is possible to check your incoming goods on a daily basis for a cost which is 95% less compared to sending samples to a lab. You will also get an immediate result which allows you to take action on the spot.
Whether you are scanning incoming goods from your distributor or you are scanning raw materials at the packaging line of your producer, thanks to a cloud solution the latest models are always at hand!
The tools are there, so now it's time to put a halt to these practices!