Fake organic vegetables, diluted honey with added sugar, “extra-virgin” olive oil mixed with vegetable oil, fish sold under another name, expired products repackaged and returned to grocery shelves… Food fraud is an economic crime that’s growing rampant around the world.
It is now part of the day-to-day considerations of the farm-to-table food industry. It’s also a topical challenge for the agri-food industry because, among other things, it can put the health of consumers at risk. Particularly when allergenic ingredients not declared on the label are added to the food.
What is food fraud?
Food fraud is the deliberate substitution, addition, tampering, or misrepresentation of food for economic gain. It can be as simple as misleading labelling (changing an expiry date or displaying a fraudulent organic certification). But it can also extend to the intentional substitution, dilution or addition of a food product to increase its value or reduce its production cost.
Types of fraud
The food industry is of growing interest to organized crime. Up to 10% of all food products sold around the world could be affected by food fraud, representing $10 to $15 billion each year. Several factors have led to the emergence of food fraud, including the complexity of the supply chain and the purchasing power of retail groups. Despite the growing list of requirements and certifications, food fraud is on the rise because it’s hard to detect.
State-of-the-art scientific laboratories are now being used to forge food. Although today’s quality assurance systems are more efficient than ever, they are not always designed to detect altered food. And when new detection methods are put in place, fraudsters quickly find ways to get around them.
List of foods most at risk of food fraud
Fish and seafood
Tea and coffee
How to fight food fraud?
Companies need to put controls in place to protect consumers and their brands. Various means can be used, such as vulnerability analyses, surveillance plans and risk-based sampling plans, developing qualification programs, auditing suppliers, and following best practices when importing and manufacturing products.
Companies that suspect food fraud should alert the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which is responsible for mitigating food safety risks and monitoring food fraud in Canada.
Above and beyond the taste and price of food, it’s important that consumers are actually eating what they think they’re eating.