Food Fraud - When Foods Are Being Adulterated

The number of cases of food fraud is constantly increasing. In the following article TÜV NORD CERT informs about the updated food industry standards and offers profiling opportunities for reliable producers.

Food Fraud – What does it mean?

Food Fraud means “conscious and intentional exchange, incorrect labelling, adulteration or imitations of food, raw materials, ingredients or packaging materials, which are placed on the market to achieve an economic advantage” (Definition: IFS Food, Vers. 6.1).

Counterfeiting affects both high-quality, expensive food with high profit margins and cheap food where quantity determines the profit. The biggest fraud cases are sufficiently well known from the media reports of the past years: Salad oil was dyed with chlorophyll and sold as olive oil, prawns sprayed with gel in to order to increase weight, honey diluted with sugar, less expensive fish sold as gourmet fish or conventionally grown food sold as organic food etc.

The existing certification and control standards were hardly in any position to detect these cases of fraud. This applied particularly in such cases where these crimes were accompanied by actual criminal energy (concealment of facts, document falsification etc.). This means: The auditor was also always dependent on what information the company audited actually disclosed.

The food industry has recognized the problem

The food industry has meanwhile taken this into account. Updated standards such as IFS Food Version 6.1, BRC Version 7 as well as FSCC 22000 Version 4.1 are meanwhile increasingly addressing the topic of “Food Fraud”. In addition, more and more preventive measures can be found in the private standards of the retail food industry. Thus, appropriate relevant control mechanisms become important elements of future audits. At the same time, various notification, information and evaluation systems are established to prevent cases of fraud in the future, detect them at an early stage and communicate them.

Opportunity for reliable producers to enhance their profile

As a basic element, the updated standards stipulate a vulnerability assessment for all raw materials, ingredients, packaging materials and outsourced processes. With their implementation, incorrect labelling and/or the replacement of substances etc. are intended to be detected. The standards contain concrete criteria and specify measures of how this vulnerability assessment is to be implemented.

On the basis of the vulnerability assessment, companies must state in written form how they wish to prevent food fraud in future and submit this plan in an audit. In annual audits it is then checked whether the identified risks are plausible and what the company has concretely undertaken to manage these risks. At the same time, the companies should appoint a special fraud team, which is ideally composed of experts from various fields (e.g. purchasing, production, QA/QM).