Food Fraud Prevention
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the disruption it brought to global supply chains, and the diminished level of surveillance, food authenticity experts predict an increase in food fraud cases. Already, 12,000 tons of illegal food products have been seized in Europe.
In order to fight the frequency of food fraud, we must fully understand what it is and what systems we can utilize to prevent it.
What is Food Fraud?
The food industry defines food fraud as deceiving consumers through the intentional adulteration of food, such as through:
- substituting one product or ingredient with another
- using unapproved methods or additives
- misrepresentation (i.e. ingredients or country of origin)
- misbranding or counterfeiting
- distributing stolen food or shipments
In most cases, food fraud shows up as food “knockoffs”, with the individuals or companies involved attempting to get a better price for their product than their direct competitors. This often involves cutting corners or obtaining ingredients through unregulated sources. A few examples of this can be seen in extra virgin olive oil, which is often blended with cheaper seed oils or non-extra virgin olive oil, and “fish swapping” which has been reported as a global practice of mislabeling cheaper fish as more expensive types of fish.
How Can Food Fraud Be Prevented?
Under FSMA, Supply chain preventive controls are required for ingredients where a hazard has been identified and the supplier controls the hazard. Many food manufacturers lack supply chain preventive controls because they either have not identified a hazard in an ingredient or packaging, have identified a hazard and are controlling it under their own roof, or rely on the customer to control the hazard. Whether or not your company requires supply chain preventive controls, a vulnerability assessment and risk mitigation should be performed.
Questions to consider when assessing your company’s vulnerability might include:
- Is the supplier trustworthy?
- Is there a previous history of food fraud?
- Who supplies our suppliers?
- Do we have an established relationship with this supplier?
- Is the documentation complete and clear?
- Are their products certified?
- Does the supplier undergo 2nd or 3rd party verification audits?
Verification is a critical piece in preventing food fraud. This might include origin/label verification, testing, supplier audits, and specification management.
Of course, food fraud can also happen from within a company. Prevention in this case often includes using the Four-eyes principle, which requires that two individuals approve the same action before it can be taken, and random testing for sensitive products.
Ensure the strength of your supply chain controls and verification process by partnering with Avert. Our food safety experts have over 20 years of experience in the food industry and work with companies regularly to implement thorough preventive measures and full brand protection.
Protect your brand and customers by contacting us today!
Matthew McClure provides sound strategies that instill cost-effective methods for building robust food safety, operational and quality assurance programs. Along with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Microbiology from The University of Akron and an MBA in Finance from Louisiana State University, Matthew brings over 20 years of experience in the food safety industry to AVERT Food Safety Advisors. His knowledge spans many areas including FDA food processing facilities, USDA meat and poultry plants, dietary supplement manufacturers, retail, cannabis manufacturing, and food service operations.
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