7 food fraud trends identified
Food fraud — an intentional act of tampering with food for economic gain — is estimated to affect up to 10% of all commercially sold food products. SAI Global explored seven types of food fraud that all Australian businesses in the food supply chain should be aware of.
Food fraud is expected to evolve, with food supply chains becoming more globalised and complex, geopolitical risk factors increasing and more environmental variables impacting the availability of raw ingredients. Based on its experience running food fraud vulnerability training for organisations in the food and agriculture industry, SAI Global has revealed the seven most common types of food fraud occurring in the food industry.
Many food businesses do not have strong measures in place to protect their foods from adulteration — the act of adding another substance to a food item, usually for profit. Spices such as oregano leaves are one of the food ingredients most at risk of adulteration, with an Australian distributor fined $10,800 by the ACCC in 2016, as its product contained less than 50% oregano leaves.
Product or package tampering is the intentional modification — or sabotage — of a food product or packaging, often in a way that can make them harmful to the consumer. As an example of tampering, in September 2018 sewing needles were inserted into Australian strawberries, leading to a series of copycat incidences in the industry, severely impacting strawberry growers. The deliberate extension of expiry dates beyond the accepted parameter for dairy and meat products also constitutes as tampering.
3. Over run or unauthorised production
This refers to legitimate products that are made in excess of production agreements, with the additional production value ending up in the supply chain under alternative (and sometimes misleading) labels. This can pose a risk to consumer health, as the products are distributed outside a regulated or controlled supply chain.
This occurs when legitimate products are stolen and enter the market through less regulated — or criminal — means. It presents a risk to consumer health, as products are sometimes smuggled, co-mingled with other products and redistributed to reach a target market.
The sale or distribution of legitimate products that do not reach their target market, such as when relief food is diverted to markets where aid is not needed or required. The UN’s food relief agency revealed that local officials in Yemen were removing food from distribution centres.
Food fraud extends to immediate or imminent counterfeiting — the act of passing off inferior goods as established and reputable brands, including the production of known foods outside of regulatory controls. This commonly occurs with olive oil, spices (like cinnamon and oregano) and honey.
Similar to counterfeiting, simulation occurs when an illegitimate product is designed to look like, but not copy, the legitimate product. For example, tests revealed that almost half of supermarket samples of honey from an Australian honey company were altered with sugar syrup.
“Food fraud is designed to be undetected by food brands, so it is often difficult to know its true nature and reach. When it does occur, it can be because the food brand has not formally monitored suppliers, or it has poor supplier relationships, pointing to a need for greater supplier management,” said Maidie Wood, SAI Global’s spokesperson.
SAI Global annually audits food retailers and manufacturers to ensure they comply with global food safety standards, and trains thousands of Australian food handlers on food safety through its public courses and webinars. Its certification process also protects businesses against risks and hazards in the food supply chain, including food fraud.
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