Food fraud costs the global food industry between 10 and 15 billion US dollars per year according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association and affects approximately 10% of all commercially sold food products. In this post learn more about the significance of this type of fraud along with developing a food fraud control program to protect your food business.
What is food fraud?
Food fraud has been defined by the UK Food Standards Agency as being “a dishonest act or omission, relating to the sale or preparation of food, which is intended for personal gain or to cause loss to another party”.
It can present itself in many ways. The following list provides some different types of food fraud.
- Substitution – This is where a high value or scarce food commodity is replaced with a cheaper substance of a similar kind without altering its overall characteristics.
- Dilution – This is where a component is ‘watered-down’ with another liquid.
- Counterfeit – This is where illegal copies of a product are made and sold.
- Adulteration – This is where another substance, of a lesser quality or cost, is added to a product.
- False Claims – This is where health, nutritional, product, origin or assurance claims are not true.
Crime and fraud have been around for many years, so why all the focus now? Unfortunately, one of the consequences of this type of fraud can be the threat to public health. This may not be intentional by the fraudsters, due to lack of food safety knowledge.
Recent food fraud issues reported in the media have included Horsemeat in ground beef, melamine in infant formula, changing product date expiry codes, dilution of extra virgin olive oil with industrial oil, Peanut Corporation selling known contaminated product, meat injected with chemicals to conceal diseases and wood pulp (AKA Cellulose) added to parmesan cheese.
Most these incidents have resulted in a threat to public health where consumers have been poisoned, or sustained physical or emotional injury. Death has also occurred.
Food Fraud Control Program
There are two main areas that make up a food fraud control program. The first part is completing a vulnerability assessment. This assessment requires you to review the raw material supply chain of your food business to see if there are any exposures for food fraud.
The second part of your food fraud control program is to then implement control measures to reduce the risk of being exposed to food fraud.
To learn how to develop and implement a food fraud control program for your business please register your interest by clicking here.
Completing Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessments
I currently use a tool that I developed based on Appendix XVII: Food Fraud Mitigation Guidance which was developed by the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention. It is an easy paper-based way (although I use an excel spreadsheet for ease of use) to assess all your raw material / supplier combinations. When you understand the risk descriptors used, this can be an easy way to complete and record your initial assessment.
As part of my research on assessment tools available, I gave the PWC/SSAFE Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment online tool a run. This free tool is an electronic diagnostic that enables companies to assess their vulnerability to food fraud. I found it relatively easy to use through the “answer the question format” but think it could be very time consuming when completing for each supplier / raw material combination. It is most important that individuals completing the answers have the requisite knowledge or expertise.
Legislation and Standard requirements
Food fraud mitigation is a requirement of different food legislation and customer standards. Here a few examples:
- FSMA – §117.130 and §117.135 states that you must identify hazards that may be intentionally introduced for purposes of economic gain and to subsequently identify and implement suitable preventive controls.
- BRC – 5.4 Product Authenticity, Claims and Chain of Custody
- Freshcare – F12 Food Defence and food fraud
- HARPS – 17.0 Food Fraud
- Woolworths Supplier Excellence Program, Manufacturing – 1. Company Commitment & Food Fraud
- SQF Edition 8 – Fundamentals – 2.7.2 Food Fraud
If you are currently certified to a GFSI accredited scheme that does not include requirements for food fraud, things are going to change. The Guidance Document Version 7 includes the criteria for food fraud mitigation.
Share your experience
Do you have insights on food fraud? Is food fraud an issue in your food business or have you uncovered areas where your product could be compromised? Share your experience with the HACCP Mentor community by leaving a comment below.