Food: What am I missing?


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The food and beverage industries are amongst the highest consumer-driven markets globally. Recent studies have indicated a strong consumer-driven preference for candid transparency relating to the food they consume, driven by a magnitude of factors including health and wellbeing, social responsibility, social economic status, and advances and adoption of new technology. This has increased the demand for transparency in the food we eat.

Consumers are driving change in the food industry, from an essential commodity to a premium product. Today’s consumers select products based on a range of criteria, including geographical origin, species, nutritional content, sustainability, ecological impact, brand and reputation. This developing consumer behaviour has pushed for regulators both locally and globally to implement new labelling laws, detailing specific characteristics from nutritional content and product stability to country of origin, to name a few.

Whilst it is clear the general population is in the best position ever to select foods that meet their ethical, nutritional and quality needs, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of fraudulent activities impacting the food they buy.

As food has moved from an essential commodity to a premium product, the attraction of supplementing high-value components with lower-value substitutes has increased dramatically across the world. Driven by greed and the desire to profit, we have seen an amplification in the incidence of fraud. Fraud has been identified in all food markets — from producer to consumer, there are more opportunities for misleading consumers. The impact of food fraud is significant to suppliers, manufacturers and retailers; aside from the expected financial impact, it can at a basic level damage a brand, but the significant impact can extend to the trade status of a country.

Food fraud is estimated to cost the global food industry US$30 to $40 billion every year. Estimates for Australia alone could be in the order of $2–3 billion. To put that into perspective, Australia’s total food and agriculture exports is valued at around $45 billion.1

Australian and New Zealand are both significant contributors to the global food export market, and they have implemented very strict guidelines relating to food fraud, specifically in relation to the origin of food.

Meanwhile industry and science have evolved to meet the growing and ever-changing demands of the consumer, with an arsenal of tools to combat food fraud.

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), a global industry network, aims to build consumers’ trust in the food they buy — no matter where their food has come from, nor where in the world they live — by improving food safety management practices.

GFSI recommendations for mitigating risk of food fraud includes two new key elements, as endorsed in the GFSI Guidance Document, that require a company:

  • to perform a food fraud vulnerability assessment; and
  • to have a control plan in place.2

To support the new GFSI standards, powerful and affordable screening technologies are now providing a greater level of confidence in the foods we eat.

New applications to combat food fraud include solutions:

  • to identify the geographical location of where raw materials were produced (produce, meats, fish, feed, honey)
  • to analyse the composition of raw ingredients and finished products (nutritional components, trace elements, pesticide residues, antibiotic residue, allergens, honey); and
  • to determine the biological origin (species) of raw ingredients and finished products (spices, herbs, produce, meats, fish).

If you want to find out more about the technologies driving these new applications, attend the Thermo Fisher Scientific Innovations in Food Authenticity and Safety Roadshow.

For more information, visit www.thermofisher.com.au/authenticity.

References
  1. PwC Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment and Mitigation; The Pursuit of Food Authenticity UCLA
  2. Tackling food fraud through food safety management systems, May 2018
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