The 2,490th Meeting of the Society

February 9, 2024 at 8:00 PM

Powell Auditorium at the Cosmos Club

Spectroscopy of Deception

Unmasking Food Fraud with Biophysics

Bartek Rajwa

Research Professor, Computational Biology and Bioinformatics
Purdue University

About the Lecture

The broadly defined concept of food fraud encompasses adulteration, substitution, dilution, tampering, misrepresentation of food, country of origin, food ingredients, and intellectual property rights counterfeiting. As food production, processing, and distribution have become increasingly interconnected globally, consumers now enjoy access to an unprecedented variety of products. However, this global expansion also increased the risk of food fraud, necessitating novel mitigation strategies. One such strategy is the use of food fingerprinting technologies, which validate food provenance, authenticity, quality, and safety and can contribute to early warning networks in cases of suspected food fraud. Food ingredient monitoring and fingerprinting is a well-understood idea known for its benefits. For instance, in the event of a massive outbreak of a food-borne epidemic, especially one driven by a previously unknown, newly emerging pathogen, monitoring food provenance would be the fastest and easiest way to trace the origin of the biological threat. While the concept has clear advantages and merits, its practical implementation requires a sophisticated combination of complex tools. These include biophysical and chemical analysis, statistical methods, data processing, and machine learning techniques. Additionally, the proposed solutions must balance requirements regarding cost, portability, and ease of use. This presentation will showcase some of the biophysical optical techniques that have been employed for the purpose of food authentication and fraud detection. Furthermore, it will explore how the fusion of biophysical analysis with the latest machine learning innovations can realize the full potential of food fingerprinting, marking a significant leap forward in our fight against food fraud.

Selected Reading
• Using a Food’s Unique Fingerprint to Detect Fraud by Emily Baron Cadloff
• Stopping knockoff knockwurst and phony fromage. How the food industry is stepping up anti-fraud technology by Laura Reiley,
• Hellberg, R. S., Everstine, K., & Sklare, S. A. (2021). Food fraud: A global threat with public health and economic consequences. Academic Press.

About the Speaker

Bartek Rajwa received his education from Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. Since 2002, he has been continuously affiliated with Purdue University in Indiana, USA, initially as a research scientist and later as a faculty member. Bartek currently serves as a Research Professor of Computational Life Sciences and Bioinformatics at the Bindley Bioscience Center, Purdue University. His expertise is rooted in the rapidly evolving field of biological data science, encompassing bioinformatics, biostatistics, and multi-omics data analysis. This interdisciplinary field aims to synthesize information from various advanced life sciences measurement technologies, including proteomics, metabolomics, genomics, biological imaging, lipidomics, and cytometry. In his research, Bartek applies mathematics, computer science, and machine learning to unravel and interpret complex phenotypic patterns observed through quantitative single-cell analysis. His work, which focuses on automated phenotype classification in the presence of incomplete and noisy data, significantly impacts areas like clinical cytometry (hematology, immunology, oncology), high-content screening, drug discovery, toxicology, neuroscience, and agriculture (emphasizing food fraud detection, biosecurity, and biosurveillance). Bartek has co-developed several groundbreaking technologies alongside fellow researchers. These innovations include spectral flow cytometry, automated clinical flow cytometry analysis pipelines, algorithms for food-borne pathogen identification, and advanced spectral information processing methods for cytometry and imaging. Bartek is the Editor-in-Chief of Cytometry Part A: Journal of Quantitative Cell Science, an official publication of the International Society for Advancement of Cytometry.