Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is IFAAO?
The International Food Authenticity Assurance Organization (IFAAO) is an industry driven membership based non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization created to address the growing challenge of determining the authenticity of food ingredients. Our goal is to fill a gap in the food supply chain that we saw as critical to improving the ability of the food industry to ensure it is providing consumers with safe, nutritious food that is exactly what it is said – and believed – to be.
2. What is food authenticity?
Food authenticity is the process of irrefutably proving that a food or food ingredient is in its original, genuine, verifiable, and intended form as declared and represented.* To create this process, IFAAO is working with respected partners who are developing verified methods and collecting authentic samples which can be used for ingredient analyses and interpretation of results by food producers and/or other stakeholders around the globe.
3. How does food authenticity differ from other forms of food "protection," such as food safety, quality, defense and integrity?
Food authentication is an emerging technology which provides a baseline by which we can determine food safety, nutrition, quality, defense and integrity* – from a positive angle. Currently, food analysis relies on testing for specific adulterants – such as pathogens (e.g., Salmonella, Listeria, E.coli), allergens, and other contaminants (melamine, metal fragments, etc.). This assumes that the adulterant is known and has a verified test; it does not account for adulterants that are not specifically tested. For example, producers are unlikely to test a product for a substance never before associated with the food – such as a "filler" being used for economic gain, or a pathogen not previously found on that food (e.g., Salmonella on cantaloupe). Thus, the goal of IFAAO is to approach food protection from the opposite angle: to define the molecular profile and test method for each unique food type. If a food does not meet its profile, it can be said to be inauthentic – regardless of whether the added matter is specifically identified or not.
4. How does IFAAO provide expertise in this area?
IFAAO brings together leading food authorities and consumer representatives who are committed to the advancement of food authenticity assurance for the safety, quality, and nutrition of the global food supply and public health and well-being of people around the world.
5. Why is food authenticity important?
Not only does food authenticity ensure that consumers are purchasing exactly what they expect and what is declared on the packaging, it also provides a number of global benefits, including those of enhancing sustainability, nutrition and public health; reducing food waste; and preventing economic adulteration. We see food authenticity as the next step in assuring the nutrition, quality, safety and integrity of the foods consumed around the world. Codex Alimentarius defines food integrity as the "state of being whole and attached to its sources and sound in its production.” FAO defines food integrity as having three dimensions: safety, quality and authenticity. Yet authenticity has no global definition or standard. As detailed throughout these FAQs, IFAAO is uniquely positioned to be the leading voice and driver of that global definition and standard to bring authenticity into the mainstream of food production.
6. How does food authenticity benefit consumers?
Assuring the authenticity of each ingredient means that every food you purchase at your local grocery store, retail chain or restaurant – from produce to processed foods to plated meals – will be exactly what it is meant to be, and what you expect it to be. Food authenticity will assure that the red snapper is truly red snapper, the honey is pure, the olive oil contains no soybean oil, and the spices contain no fillers. And it's not just a matter of quality, added substances can be unsafe, and may impact public health in ways that aren't even yet known.
When a food is pure and unadulterated, it is also more likely to be of the quality you want and expect, and last on the shelf or in the refrigerator as expected – all of which leads to less food waste. That doesn't even take into account the amount of food waste generated by a recalled product when the adulterated ingredient isn't discovered until the food is processed, at market, and in consumers' homes.
With many developing nations facing issues of food insecurity – not having access to enough affordable, nutritious food, and the world's population expected to exceed its supply of food by the year 2050 (at today's rates), increasing the sustainability of our food supply and production and reducing food waste are of critical importance.
7. Why is food authenticity important to the food industry?
In addition to the above, the ability of the industry to assure that an ingredient is authentic before it makes its way through the supply chain and is processed into a vast array of foods can greatly reduce the number of food recalls and associated costs and brand damage – not to mention the associated potential of consumers falling ill or even dying. Food authenticity isn't just a protection, it can be of benefit to food companies: By validating exactly what is and isn't in your product, you can meet consumer demand for transparency and food integrity, and communicate and brand the authenticity of your products.
*These definitions originated with IFAAO and any use of these definitions without IFAAO's consent is strictly prohibited.