Food fraud is the act of purposely altering, misrepresenting, mislabeling, substituting or tampering with any food product at any point along the farm–to–table food supply–chain. Fraud can occur in the raw material, in an ingredient, in the final product or in the food’s packaging.
Food fraud is the deception of consumers through intentional adulteration of food:
- by substituting one product for another
- using unapproved enhancements or additives
- misrepresenting something (e.g., country of origin)
- misbranding or counterfeiting
- stolen food shipments and/or
- intentional contamination with a variety of chemicals, biological agents or other substances harmful to private– or public–health.
So when there is talk about food fraud, that can entail many different aspects, but the most ghastly is the intentional contamination with our food. Just within the last 15 years, there has been many issues with food fraud:
- China (2008) melamine in baby food; (2015) ‘zombie’ frozen meat
- Russia (2015) palm oil in milk
- Italy (2011) illegal organic produce; (2014) hydrogen peroxide on seafood
- England (2013) beef burgers containing pork and horsemeat
- Australia (2013) free–range eggs from caged hens
- Mexico (2005–present) meat from undeclared species
- USA (2009–present) Salmonella in peanuts, honey–laundering, meat from undeclared species
While many of the cases that arise from from investigations usually are harmless, some food–fraud incidents have resulted in serious public health consequences. This do illustrate vulnerabilities in the current regulatory and quality assurance systems.
That is why knowing the source and history of the food we eat is all important. Fraudsters are able to perpetuate their crimes through vulnerabilities in the current food supply chains. End-to-end traceability and supply chain transparency are critical management tools for food brand owners, farmers, etc. Track-and-trace combined with market monitoring and testing, are key tactics for proactively mitigating food fraud risks.
So even though consumers are doing hard work to seek out foods that will promote their health, by buying food that are a mean to a healthy life, they are fighting a losing battle.