What is Food Fraud?
With the ever widening global food supply chain, food fraud is becoming an increasing problem that is of major concern to suppliers, manufacturers, retailers, and, of course, consumers.
So what exactly is food fraud and why should the public be worried about it? Food fraud refers to any situation where food is tampered with or misrepresented with an intention of deceiving the consumer, with the main goal being to gain financially from such acts. There are many different types of food fraud, and these have been explored at length in scientific journals by various scholars. However, the two main types of food fraud are:
Sale of food that is unfit and has the potential to harm
This type of food fraud includes sale of beef and poultry with unknown origins, recycling of animal by-products with an intention of getting them back into the food chain, and even knowingly selling food products which have exceeded recommended use by, or safe to eat, dates.
Deliberate misrepresentation of food
Substituting products with cheaper alternatives and making false statements about where the food products originated from are some examples of this type of food fraud.
If animals have been stolen and illegally slaughtered, the sale of such meat constitutes food fraud, the same being true for wild game that has been poached.
The deliberate contamination of food for financial gain is worrisome in that it poses serious health risks to the consumer. With chemicals such as melamine and heparin making their way into the food chain there are serious implications for the long-term health of consumers.
Indeed, it will take a lot of vigilance to ensure that tampering of food products is curtailed. With the increasing fragmentation of global food supply chains, it has become much harder to trace the sources of food, which makes it difficult to detect tampering when it occurs. In the recent horse meat scandal for instance, the meat product travelled across several networks in several European countries, undetected.
Considering that the horse meat scandal is just a tip of the iceberg, it is no surprise therefore that consumers, investigators and regulators are anxious to identify any suspicious products that may be passed off as legitimate food products.
Consumers are entitled to the highest standards of food safety and manufacturers need to be completely transparent in disclosing details of where exactly they source their food, and what safeguards they have in place to prevent food fraud.