Isotope-based food testing had “real potential” to help verify where food and drink products are from, the FSA said this week as it revealed the results of a study into food provenance.

The agency announced the results of a study of 96 products claimed to be from the UK and Ireland that were screened using stable isotope ratio analysis (SIRA). It said the work had given it the opportunity to gain experience of the relatively new SIRA technology, which it described as having “real potential” to screen samples against country of origin claims, when used alongside other evidence to corroborate SIRA results.

SIRA screening relies on the use of databases of food samples, and the FSA added that some databases were sufficiently developed for use by regulatory authorities for screening. Others, however, may require further development.

“We found SIRA effective in raising questions about where a food comes from but relied on traceability information to further investigate origin,” said COO Andrew Rhodes. “We look to build on this useful work in the months ahead.”

In the FSA results, 78 samples were immediately shown by SIRA to be consistent with the origin claimed, while 17 samples requiring follow-up investigation were supported by documentation. One product, Asda Extra Special English Set Honey, was withdrawn from sale before the FSA received the SIRA results due to the English honey being mixed with South American honey after a processing tank was not cleaned thoroughly between batches.