- Publication date : 2023-08-01
Fraud or cross-contamination? The case of small-scale meat processors in Quebec, Canada (2023), Food Control, 109763
Food fraud (FF) in the meat sector often appears as misrepresentation of the origin of animal species. However, undeclared species may also occur due to cross-contamination (CC), e.g., if processed in shared equipment. This study evaluated (i) the likelihood of occurrence of cross-contact species in ground meat processed under small-scale conditions, and (ii) whether a threshold (1%) for the presence of undeclared species could be used to differentiate FF from CC. Cross-contact pork (% w/w) in ground beef processed under simulated and commercial small-scale conditions was quantified by PCR. No significant differences (p > 0.05) were noted between the results obtained with lean and fat-supplemented pork. Experiments under simulated conditions showed that cleaning the grinder between pork and beef prevented CC – although impractical in small-scale operations. Without cleaning, the first 500 g of beef ground were the most contaminated (25/30 samples > 1% pork; maximum 26.49 ± 25.73), and the last 500 g of beef after one grinding, the least (4/30 samples > 1% pork; maximum 0.52 ± 1.68). Double grinding resulted in homogenisation and a decrease in detected pork contamination (20/30 samples > 1% pork; maximum 5.1 ± 6.12). In addition, ground beef produced in a butcher shop in Quebec City, in compliance with hygiene requirements, was analysed. Cross-contact pork was prevalent in these samples (41/45 samples >1%; maximum 20.55% ± 11.14). Thus, occurrence of > 1% pork in ground beef processed under normal small-scale conditions is likely. Using this threshold as FF indicator is not recommended in this context, as it could expose small-scale processors to unwarranted sanctions.