What is horizon scanning?
Horizon scanning is the act of looking for and analysing threats and opportunities that will emerge in the medium to long term. It is used across many industries, including the financial and health care industries. Within the food industry, horizon scanning refers to the act of collecting information about current trends in food production and predicted incidences that could increase the likelihood of food fraud for a particular food material. For example, climate change is likely to reduce coffee production which could drive up prices and increase fraudulent activity in that sector.
Horizon scanning is going to become a requirement of all major (GFSI) food safety standards in the next few years. It is already a requirement of BRC 7 (the most recent issue of the food safety standard published by the British Retail Consortium), although the words ‘horizon scanning’ themselves do not appear in the standard. The BRC considers horizon scanning to be integral to the understanding of risks to food authenticity. The relevant clause is 5.4.1: Access to information to inform risk assessments: “The company shall have processes in place to access information on historical and developing threats to the supply chain which may present a risk of adulteration or substitution of raw materials. Such information may come from trade associations, government sources, private resource centres.” Horizon scanning refers to developing threats. To learn how to access data about historical threats, click here.
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), which provides guidance for food safety standards, is planning to release a revised Guidance Document in 2016. This will set out requirements for all GFSI food safety standards to contain the following key requirements:
- ‘Food fraud vulnerability assessment’ requirements and
- ‘Food fraud vulnerability control plan’ requirements.
Source: GFSI Position on Mitigating the Public Health Risk of Food Fraud (2014), Food Fraud Think Tank
How to do horizon scanning:
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) makes the following recommendations in its guidance document Understanding Vulnerability Assessment (2015):
“It is important to note that information relating to the potential adulteration and food fraud of raw materials is constantly changing as new threats are identified and existing ones are managed. The [food] company must therefore ensure that it remains up to date with relevant scientific and technical developments, emerging issues and known threats. Mechanisms to achieve this include:
- membership of a trade association that provides this service
- subscription to a service provider supplying updates on food fraud
- help from government officials or local enforcement officers (in countries where the authorities publish useful information on known incidents or emerging threats or are prepared to discuss these issues with the industry).
It should be noted that the most valuable resources are often those that proactively provide updates, as this avoids the potential for busy staff to forget to access the updated information. During the audit [to BRC Food Safety Standard Issue 7] the auditor will look for evidence of systematic checking and the process for ensuring that information is transferred into action as necessary.”
How to get a subscription that meets the requirements of BRC Issue 7
The best known subscription service was provided by Leatherhead in the United Kingdom. FoodLineWeb contained millions of records of food fraud cases and was searchable by keyword. Subscriptions for 2016 cost £1500 pounds sterling. The service has been discontinued.
Food Forensics, also in the United Kingdom, publishes a monthly newsletter for members. The newsletter can be used for horizon scanning. Membership fees are £99.
GlobalID Horizon Scan is a subscription service that provides alerts on adulteration and fraud, as well as food safety contamination events.
Fera HorizonScan monitors global food integrity issues and also operates as a paid subscription service.
Subscribe for free to Food Fraud Advisors’ Food Fraud Risk Information Database and you will receive an email alert each time new information is added to the database. The database is free and open-access, hosted on-line by Trello.com. You can view the database without a log-in, however to subscribe you will need to create a free Trello account first. Food Fraud Advisors’ does not receive income from Trello.
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