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Food fraud prevention strategy

Posted: 18 May 2021 | | No comments yet

In a comprehensive webinar, sponsored by LGC Standards, three specialists shared their expertise in the proficient prevention of food fraud, offering a global perspective on testing, monitoring and verification.

fraud prevention

In a recent webinar hosted by New Food, Selvarani Elahi MBE, Dr Maura Rury from LGC Dr. Ehrenstorfer, and Dr John Spink of Michigan State University discussed food fraud prevention strategy. The hour-long session explored the identification of risks and implementation of a food fraud prevention plan, along with supply chain management and laboratory testing. Here, we summarise the key takeaway messages.

What is food fraud?

Definitions of food fraud vary around the world, which can be a barrier to international trade. LGC has collaborated with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as part of a project launched by the UK Government, to standardise the definition of food fraud and related terms. Following a review of scientific and non-scientific literature, with input from experts in the field, food fraud was defined as an intentional act with motivation for economic gain.1 There are various types of food fraud, such as adulterant substances and counterfeiting (intellectual property rights infringement).

Key drivers

The fundamental driver of food fraud is financial gain – it is possible to make more money from food fraud than from the illegal narcotics trade. The occurrence of food fraud requires only a motivated party and an opportunity. Key drivers likely to impact the UK in the next five to 10 years include the EU exit, consumer demand, lack of enforcement (which is currently an issue due to COVID-19 restrictions), complex supply chains and low penalties, among others.

Prevention strategy

Opportunities for food fraud exist at numerous stages of the supply chain before the product reaches the consumer. To prevent food fraud, it is crucial to identify and reduce system weaknesses. This task can be divided into three stages: detect, deter and prevent. Detection of the substance or product anomaly is followed by a targeted countermeasure to deter this specific type of fraud. Prevention requires the implementation of countermeasures that reduce the opportunity for fraud. Authenticity testing is vital at each of these stages to support and reinforce prevention.

Reference materials for authenticity testing

In authenticity testing, it is vital that the entire workflow is accurate and reliable, from sampling methods to equipment calibrations, in order to ensure reliable data. A robust method and high-quality reference materials can help to ensure this. Dr. Ehrenstorfer offers a range of reference materials produced under the scope of ISO 17025 and ISO 17034 accreditation, covering the food and environmental sectors. These are designed to support authenticity testing for food fraud detection, deterrence and, ultimately, prevention.

Implementation

Implementing this prevention strategy on a large scale will require efforts across the whole food supply chain. There are different considerations for food companies and suppliers, including customer and legal requirements, but familiarity with the basics of food fraud prevention and further education and training are crucial.

Food Authenticity Network

The Food Authenticity Network (FAN) brings together information on food fraud and food authenticity testing to ultimately increase consumer confidence. Originally set up by the UK Government, it is now led by LGC. The FAN is a resource providing curated news on food authenticity-testing topics, tools and guides for food fraud mitigation, and training materials for authenticity testing. In response to the potential increased opportunity for food fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic, the website has collated information and signposted other resources to help inform and prevent.

Key messages

  • Food fraud is an intentional act with motivation for economic gain
  • Food fraud prevention systems must extend beyond mere detection
  • Prevention is interdisciplinary
  • The role of food authenticity testing and monitoring is always to support and reinforce prevention.

Watch the webinar on-demand here.

Reference

1. Presented at CEN TC for FA meeting on 19 January 2021, to be published.

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