What Is Food Fraud? Food fraud. It’s something that you might be a little hazy on as it rarely makes headline news. The last major story that gripped the entire nation was the 2013 horsemeat scandal. However, just because it isn’t reaching the front page of The Times, or is being discussed on Good Morning Britain, doesn’t mean that it’s disappeared. In actual fact, organised crime have taken advantage of new popular food trends from 2018 onwards, to take advantage of unknowing customers. Food crime involves serious and intentional dishonesty that impacts detrimentally on the safety or authenticity of food, drink or animal feed.
To begin with, let’s highlight the ways in which food fraud can occur:
theft – dishonestly appropriating food, drink or feed products in order to profit from their use or sale unlawful processing – slaughtering or preparing meat and related products in unapproved premises or using unauthorised techniques waste diversion – unlawfully diverting food, drink or feed meant for disposal, back into the supply chain adulteration – reducing the quality of food by including a foreign substance, in order to lower costs or fake a higher quality substitution – replacing a food or ingredient with another substance that is similar but inferior misrepresentation – marketing or labelling a product to wrongly portray its quality, safety, origin or freshness document fraud – includes the making, use and possession of false documents with the intent to sell, market or otherwise vouch for a fraudulent or substandard product
The regulation of food and drink products in the UK largely stems from EU legislation. The rules around food safety and labelling requirements are fairly clear and robust. Recent changes in sentencing guidelines in England and Wales mean that there is now scope for the authorities to come down hard on those who put consumers at risk of harm.
The Food Safety Act 1990 provides the framework for all food legislation in England, Wales and Scotland. The Food Safety Order 1991 provides a similar one for Northern Ireland. Under these regulations, food businesses are required to guarantee that what they sell to the public is of the quality or the substance that the consumer is led to expect. Crucially, they must also ensure that food is advertised, presented and labelled correctly so as to not mislead customers.
Problems arise, however, on both an EU and a UK scale when it comes to dealing with fraud in the food supply chain, particularly where there is no clear harm or risk of harm to consumers. Examples of food fraud include where ordinary honey is sold as the more expensive ‘Manuka’ honey, or run of the mill olive oil is traded as ‘extra virgin’. In these cases, the ability (and perhaps the willingness) of the authorities to pursue and prosecute fraudsters becomes more complicated.
An investigation by The Times, discovered that several luxury goods and ingredients were being manipulated and undermined…..
“A rise in food fraud has included “beluga” caviar from fish besides sturgeon being sold in upmarket shops, fake Périgord truffles shipped from China, fake Moët made in Italy, Parmesan bulked out with wood pulp and fake olive oil proving to be sunflower oil mixed with chlorophyll and soya oil.
STS Food Safety representative, Dave Griffin, discusses what businesses can do to avoid food fraud and combat it within their business.
The integrity and safety of food that a business produces partly depends upon the raw materials it purchases from their suppliers. Using reputable, approved suppliers provides ‘peace of mind’ that food being purchased is of the required quality and substance.
There are a number of ways of checking supplier standards including:
Requesting copies of any certification the supplier may hold to demonstrate they are meeting certain safety and quality standards Asking for a copy of the supplier’s HACCP plan and food safety management system to provide reassurance that standards are in place Requesting references from other customers who use the same supplier Conducting spot checks on deliveries to make sure you are getting the product you ordered Completing random microbiological sampling on products received to check it is of the nature and standard requested Instructing a food safety specialist to visit the supplier’s premises to check standards
Also consider that certain foods, such as red meat carcasses and certain imported foods, should carry an official stamp or documents to certify their fitness – these should be checked upon receipt. If in doubt, do not accept the product and return to the supplier. Keep a record of any issues you have with products received from suppliers and review these regularly – if a consistent issue is occurring, it may be worth considering de-listing the supplier and finding an alternative.