Fighting food fraud to safeguard consumers

Food fraud can be a crime. At its worst, it impacts food safety and affects people’s health. Companies not proactively preventing food fraud risk to become unknowing perpetrators.

A DNV survey on food safety (February 2019) found that only 18% cited food fraud vulnerability as a main risk threatening their ability to provide safe food. According to the European Commission, costs related food fraud for the global food industry is estimated to around EUR 30 billion every year. The complex nature of globalized supply chains and economic motivations increases the threat. Companies wanting to stay safe need a risk-mitigation program. Adding digital solutions will help any company trace its supply chain and provide consumer transparency in a trusted way.

What is food fraud?

When food is not what it is claimed to be, it is food fraud. Deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging or false or misleading statements about a product is more common than most people thing. Up to 70% of food frauds globally are deliberate ingredient substitution or dilution. While consumers may not know the statistics, they are familiar with the products. Meats, honey, fish, extra virgin olive oil, tea, coffee, herbs and juice are often the subjects. At best, the product includes something that should not be there. At worst, it causes health problems.

How you can use your food safety management system to prevent food fraud? 

Pro-active mitigation is the only way to take control. A risk-mitigation program into your food safety management system (FSMA) is a necessity. We recommended to:

  1. Conduct a vulnerability assessment
  2. Implement mitigation measures (built into your FSMS)
  3. Activate an alert system.

Many food safety standards’ requirements cover food fraud. GFSI requires it included in its benchmarked standards:

  • BRCGS issue 8. Product authenticity, claims and chain of custody (CoC).
  • IFS (International Food Standard). Chapter to mitigate food fraud, including CoC.
  • FSSC 22000 v5. Mandatory requirements to perform vulnerability and separate food defense assessments.
  • SQF. Food Defense & Food Fraud section, incl. requirements to perform a vulnerability assessment.  

In addition, different legislations developed intend to prevent food fraud. In the US, FSMA (The Food Safety Modernization Act) covers all aspects of food safety and integrity. From mitigation strategies against international adulteration to food transportations procedures to foreign supplier verification programs.

Can digital solutions help me unbundle the complexity?

TA structured approach achieved with a sound mitigation program is always the first step.  Digital solutions combining auditor and industry expertise with sensors, blockchain and IoT technology can definitely benefit both you and consumers. By digitally managing and collecting data along complex supply chains, you will be able to trace your ingredients and manage suppliers to build confidence internally. In addition, you can use the same data to verify product claims, communicating authenticity and food safety directly to consumers.

Where do I start?

Any effective solution would have to be based on food industry and auditor expertise, the right blend of technology and structured approach (mitigation program).

Working with companies and their supply chains across the globe to ensure food safety, transparency and sustainability, we are well positioned to work with you to prevent food fraud through our certification portfolio as well as developing novel digital assurance solutions to suit your company and supply chain needs.

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