As common as the phrase, “You are what you eat” is heard, do we always know what we are eating? Rampant food fraud is an insidious but often invisible form of corruption. Food counterfeiting, mislabeling, and food adulteration form a dangerous multi-billion-dollar global trade collectively known as food fraud. But fighting food fraud is not a lost cause.
Providing misleading food product and ingredient information to consumers (or restaurants and retailers) may amount to little more than their receiving and consuming products for which they paid artificially high prices, such as false organic labels, counterfeit olive oil, or maple syrup. But there can be more dire consequences from motivated adulteration of human food. Adulterated tuna steaks, for example, may be laced with deadly nitrates, and peanuts may be contaminated – all with deadly results.
What can be done to ensure that food products and food ingredients are what they say they are? How can the food industry restore consumer trust in food packaging and products when food fraud cases are widespread?
At a regulatory level, we need to govern food manufacturers and the food supply chain as a whole. Implementing global food safety initiatives and robust food safety management systems is possible by tracking and tracing the entire supply chain journey for food items, from source to consumption.
What is food fraud?
Food fraud is a kind of intentional food scam. The EU defines food fraud as “any suspected intentional action by businesses or individuals for the purpose of deceiving purchasers and gaining undue advantage therefrom”.
Consequences of food fraud
Food fraud is a major problem. Economically motivated adulteration of food products for financial gain compromises food safety and poses risks to human and animal health. It also undermines the trust consumers and retailers have in the food supply chain.
Famous cases of food fraud, such as the so-called “horsemeat scandal” and the melamine-laced infant formula case in China, have had disastrous consequences. In addition to weakening consumer confidence, food product fraud leads to financial fallout in the form of economic losses, liability issues and the costs of setting food recalls into motion (in addition to long-term brand damage). Worse still, compromising food safety can kill – and has killed – consumers.
Managing food safety, stamping out fraudulent activity: Traceability technology
Traceability technology for food can play a role in counteracting food fraud. Traceability throughout the food chain enables clear visibility into where food has been, where it comes from, and where it ends up. Building links into a chain of data that includes food sourcing, food production, food processing, food packaging, food storage, wholesale and retail distribution, creates a complete chain. A traceable chain creates comprehensive visibility, making fraudulent and inauthentic food goods much more difficult to introduce.
Likewise, traceability enables a granular understanding of where items are within the supply chain. This makes things like recalls faster, easier, and more targeted. For businesses, these kinds of challenges are expensive and difficult to solve. But traceability with shared data standards governing what kinds of data must be collected and included with food products, provide a big part of the solution in stamping out fraud and managing food safety at scale.
Learn more about Kezzler for food and beverage use cases.
Get in touch to learn more about using traceability to secure better food safety and stamp out fraud.
Chairman, Vestland Group