We’re All Affected By Food Fraud

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

Food Industry Asia’s latest white paper on Food Fraud unveils some shocking truths about our globalised food chain.

Did you know? Twice as much Wagyu beef is sold in China than is actually imported into the country. Similarly, the amount of olive oil produced by Italy is considerably higher than the amount of olives harvested in the country itself.

These are examples of food fraud, either through substitution, which involves replacing a high-value product with a less expensive variety, or through dilution, where a product (like olive oil) is mixed with cheaper varieties of a similar product. The intention of these fraudulent activities is to deceive the consumer in order to make a profit through a sub-standard product.

Most fraudsters are able to distribute their goods without detection until consumers complain of a health risk—e.g. the Chinese infant formula scandal—or researchers identify an adulteration in the product—e.g. the European horse meat scandal. While the latter yielded no adverse health effects, the former led to the death of many infants in China. As such, public health is the primary concern with regards to food fraud.

In Asia, food fraud presents a major challenge due to the difficulties in detecting where, when and how these fraudulent activities take place in the food chain. Moreover, in Asia, compliance to regulations as well as the enforcement of certain regulations by authorities and government bodies is relatively lax.

Thus, in order to mitigate food fraud in the continent, it is important to empower people at every point in the supply chain with traceable processes. This would help to create a sense of accountability and traceability throughout the supply chain. For example, a documented risk assessment could be undertaken for raw material suppliers to identify risks and ensure product safety. Further, any claims of authenticity of materials should be reinforced with appropriate traceable paperwork and testing. Senior management should also have a commitment to continually improve systems that weed out substitutions and fraudulent activity in the supply chain, as there are many different levels in which food fraud can be introduced in various parts of the chain.

Interested in learning more about food fraud and food safety? Food Industry Asia’s white paper provides an in-depth view of Asia’s most pressing public health issue.