Focus on Food Fraud

Food Fraud

Food Fraud is a hot topic in the food industry at the moment, and there have been several conferences held on the subject that RQA have attended recently. Here are some key points that we took away from these events.

  • There still seems to be some disagreement over an exact definition of food fraud, or food crime as some refer to it, but Professor Chris Elliot, a leading academic in the area, defined it as:

“Any actions taken by businesses or individuals that deceive other businesses and/or individuals in terms of misrepresenting food, food ingredients or food packaging that brings about a financial gain”.

  • Food fraud can take the form of either misrepresentation, e.g. saying this is cod when it is a cheaper white fish; or substitution of an ingredient e.g. saying something contains saffron, when it is a cheaper alternative; or dilution e.g. mixing extra virgin olive oil with lower grade oil.
  • Although it is often thought of as a new threat, food related fraud has been around since food products have been traded.
  • Rice, herbs and spices, shrimp and organic foods, are seen to be emerging as products being more commonly at risk of food fraud.
  • Feeling is that there needs to be a specific food fraud auditing standard, to assess a company’s awareness and mitigation strategy for avoiding food fraud, not just as part of Food Defence or VACCP plans.
  • Regulation is underway at a European level. Prevention is seen as the key to regulation and there is a feeling that there should be some onus of due diligence on suppliers and manufacturers to understand and mitigate any food fraud risks. Many governments are putting laws in place and forming Food Crime units to tackle food fraud.
  • There are many things that can be tested for to prove fraud (e.g. speciation, pre-frozen, wild or farmed) but also many that can’t, so traceability is key to proving provenance of certain food or ingredients making claims such as Organic, Kosher, or other sustainability or ethical claims. The current buzzword, Blockchain, has been cited as potentially valuable in this area.
  • A combination of analytical and data methodologies is needed to combat food fraud.

RQA can offer training and consultancy in Food Defence, TACCP and VACCP, and also Supply Chain Risk Management consultancy which all cover Food Fraud considerations.

To discuss your food fraud needs email us on contact@rqa-group.com or call us on +44(0)118 935 7242.