It’s been happening for millennia; the sale of food that is not quite what it should be. We call it food fraud, and it’s a serious problem. Although it has been a well-known problem for many years, it wasn’t until the large-scale and well-publicised ‘horsemeat scandal’ of 2013, in which beef products were found to be adulterated with horsemeat, that the international food industry started to act in a collaborative way to tackle the issue. Since then, the food industry has discussed and implemented a range of measures designed to minimise the occurrence of food fraud. These measures include new regulatory requirements for food fraud prevention in the USA and changes to food safety standards in other parts of the world.
One of the industry’s tools for preventing food fraud is a special type of risk assessment, known as a vulnerability assessment, which is going to become part of all major food safety standards in the next few years. To learn more about vulnerability assessments, click here. The risk assessment process usually includes a consideration of whether or not a food is in the form of whole pieces that are easily recognisable. Whole foods are generally considered to be less of a risk for fraud than powders or liquids. For example, a whole banana in its skin is relatively harder to fraudulently adulterate than banana powder or natural banana extract. Unsurprisingly, this component of a risk assessment is based on the assumption that a food business would recognise if the whole food does not look right.
What not to do
Beta Wholesale of Queensland, Australia managed to sell containers of whole pine nuts that were found to be peanuts. Clear containers. According to a local newspaper, a recall was initiated after a consumer noticed that the ‘pine nuts’ smelt like peanuts. That’s a fail, Beta Wholesale and Country Fresh Food Products. Step one in food fraud prevention is to pay attention to the food you are purchasing.