Food Fraud: Detection and Prevention

Food fraud is a collective term used to encompass the deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering, or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients, or food packaging; or false or misleading statements made about a product, for economic gain. Food fraud is a broader term than either the economically motivated adulteration (EMA) defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the more specific general concept of food counterfeiting. Food fraud may not include “adulteration” or “misbranding,” as

defined in the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), when it involves acts such as tax-avoidance and smuggling. The economic motivation behind food fraud is distinctly different from those for food safety, food defence, and food quality. The cause of an event might be food fraud, but if a public health threat becomes involved, the effect is an adulterated product and a food safety incident. All of this is under the umbrella of food protection, which encompasses food fraud, food quality, food safety, and food defense. Here is no statutory definition of food fraud, and different countries, researchers and industry groups have defined it in various ways. However, food fraud is most commonly referred to as the intentional defrauding of food and food ingredients for economic gain. Food fraud is estimated to cost the global food industry $10-$15 billion a year. Food fraud can occur in a variety of situations. Food or food ingredients may be substituted for lower-quality, inferior ingredients, or one species for another. Food ingredients may be diluted with water, or main ingredients may be omitted or removed. Some producers deceive consumers, manufactures, retailers, and governments for the sole purpose of making money. Many consumers are not interested in how the food they consume is produced or where it comes from but are more concerned about being able to purchase food inexpensively. The lack of interest and knowledge by the consumer increases the risk of food fraud by producers and manufacturers who are solely interested in making a big profit.

Although the majority of food fraud cases have not resulted in death or serious illnesses, food fraud can still be a food safety concern. Food products can be substituted with a common allergen, such as tree nuts or eggs, and can cause severe adverse reactions to consumers. Unfortunately, food fraud is not a new concept and has been going on for thousands of years. In the middle Ages, when the price of imported spices increased, merchants would substitute spices with seeds, stones or dusts. In the 18th and 19th centuries, milk was commonly diluted with water, sometimes dirty water, and colour with chalk or plaster. Over the past couple of years, there have been several reported food fraud incidents. In 2013, consumers in England, France, Greece and several other countries were duped and unknowingly purchased meatballs, burgers and other food products that contained horse meat. The suppliers of the products were aware that their products contained horse meat, but instead of declaring it on the product labels, the suppliers saw an opportunity to make money and deceive their consumers who thought they were buying beef.

  • •Flavour science & artificial sweeteners
  • •Practices in food inspection
  • •Retail & food service
  • •Sanitary equipment & facility design
  • •Strategies & technologies to reduce food wastage
  • •Threat analysis critical control point (TACCP)

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