Fraud or cross-contamination? The case of small-scale meat processors in Quebec, Canada

  • Publication date : 2023-08-01


Fraud or cross-contamination? The case of small-scale meat processors in Quebec, Canada (2023), Food Control, 109763

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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.