Food fraud occurs when food and drink is specifically sold in such a way that deliberately misleads or deceives consumers or customers for financial gain. The most well-known definition of food fraud was published by the Michigan State University in 2011.
Dr John Spink and Douglas Moyer claims the widely accepted explanation for food fraud is that it is a collective term used to encompass the deliberate and wilful substitution, tampering or misrepresenting the food, food ingredients or food packaging. It could also be misleading statements made about a product for economic benefit.
Other circulated definitions include:
1) Food fraud is deception, using food for economic benefit.
2) Food fraud is any action taken by a business or individual that deceive other business or individuals in terms of building up food, food ingredients or food packaging that may bring about financial benefit.
3) Food fraud is deceiving consumers using food products, ingredients and packaging for economic benefits and may include substitution, adulteration, misbranding, counterfeiting, stolen goods or others.
4) Food fraud is essentially the sale of an inferior product represented as a more valuable one.
It is happening for prosperity when the sale of food that is not quite what it should be. Although it has been a well-known problem for many years, it is happening on large scale now. It is a serious problem; hence it is called food fraud. Until recently, it was not well-publicised like the horsemeat scandal in 2013. Beef products were found to be adulterated with horsemeat, and the international food industry started to act in a collaborative way to tackle the challenges.
Since the scandal, the food industry has planned and implemented a range of measures to minimise the occurrence of such fraud. These implementations include new regulations required for food fraud prevention in the USA. It also includes food safety standards in other parts of the world.
A special type of risk assessment that is known as ‘vulnerability assessment’ has been introduced for preventing food fraud. It is believed that this is going to become part of all major food safety standards in the next few years. Other tools include enhancements to the traceability of food and ingredients, reviewing of purchasing specifications and heightened testing and inspection of foods, ingredients and suppliers.
Food fraud affects many supermarket staples; therefore, one should choose food and beverages carefully. When buying food, it is taken on good faith that the product matches the description on the label. However, there are many left questioning this trust especially with recent revelations that many honey products could be adulterated.
This scandal highlights a more complex issue costing the industry and consumers billions of dollars. Food Fraud is potentially putting consumers at risk. There could be a through substitution, tampering and dilution of food, ingredients and packaging. It is designed to be undetected, it is difficult to know the true reach of food fraud, and the potential profits and complexities of the modern food supply chain.
Normally the brands known for quality may be the target with fake labels and brands. The high value and high demand foods are exceptionally at risk of counterfeits. Counterfeiters may target certain labels such as ‘organic’ and ‘free range’ that fetch higher prices. However, origins may be difficult to trace. However, origins may be difficult to trace, resulting in fraudulent use of these labels.
Fish is a common commodity to be marketed as a more expensive species. Counterfeiters taking advantage of the fact that the average person might not be able to tell the difference.
Mixed processed products are easy to fake or mix with cheaper products or substances. Dilution is a typical method of fraud for liquid products. For example, olive oil may be diluted with cheaper oils such as sunflower or olive pomace oil. Pomace oil is from the olive oil pressing waste. Honey is another target that can be diluted with cheaper sugar syrups like sugar cane or rice syrup.