This page contains information and links to help you investigate, understand and summarise incidences of food fraud that have occurred or may occur within a food or food ingredient. Some foods are more susceptible than others to economically motivated adulteration, substitution and dilution. Understanding the susceptibility of an ingredient or raw material type is an important part of every vulnerability assessment process.
Susceptibility is investigated in two parts. The first part is the general susceptibility of the food and is irrespective of where it is purchased or sold; this can be determined using publicly available information. The second part is specific to an individual food business. The specific susceptibility of a food or ingredient is dependent on the characteristics of the supply chain, management of the supply chain and testing and auditing activities.
To investigate the general susceptibility of a food or ingredient to food fraud, use publicly available information about incidences of fraud that have occurred in the past and that might occur in the future.
There are a few different ways to access information about previous incidences and emerging issues with a raw material type, as shown below.
1. Online databases – access to historical data:
- Decernis has an extremely comprehensive database of food fraud incidents which can be searched by food type and by adulterant type. This database was developed and formerly operated by the US Pharmacopeial Convention (UPS). It also contains information about analytical methods. https://decernis.com/solutions/food-fraud-database/.
- Food Fraud Advisors’ Food Fraud Risk Information Database is a free and open-access online database of food fraud incidences and emerging threats, organised by food type. No log-in required.
- HorizonScan contains historical data about both commodities and suppliers. Users can set up email alerts for issues relevant to them.
- FoodSHIELD was created by The Food Protection and Defense Institute, which is part of the University of Minnesota and partially funded by the USA Department of Homeland Security. FoodSHIELD resources, including a database of economically motivated adulteration incidences are available to members. Unfortunately membership is limited to representatives from local, state, and federal governments, the military and laboratories that perform analyses. Members must first pass a membership checking process to ensure they are eligible to access the information. https://www.foodshield.org and https://www.foodshield.org/index.cfm/discover-tools-links/what-is-foodshield/foodshield-brochure/
- The Food Protection and Defense Institute also operates a Food Adulteration Incidents Registry.
- EMAlert is software that helps USA businesses with commodity scanning and assessing vulnerabilities for USA regulatory compliance. Subscriptions start at US$2,500 per year.
- The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) is managed by a group of European national food safety authorities and alerts its member states to incidences of food and feed safety and integrity. RASFF publishes a searchable database for investigating incidences of food fraud. To learn more about RASFF click here. For direct access to the database, open the RASFF Portal.
- The US FDA has a searchable list of food recalls and food safety alerts, including those related to food fraud. http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/
2. Email alerts via subscription service:
- Food Forensics, a laboratory located in United Kingdom, offer a monthly horizon scanning risk newsletter to members.
- FoodChainID Horizon Scan is a paid subscription service that provides alerts on adulteration and fraud, as well as food safety contamination events.
- Some trade associations provide email services to members.
- Government-run food safety and food regulatory bodies in some jurisdictions send emails to interested parties. Contact your local authority for more information.
3. Direct intelligence:
- Information can be obtained by asking law enforcement officials and government departments.
- Suppliers can provide information about their material types.
- Trade associations can be approached for information on food fraud and emerging issues.
- Conferences and webinars about food fraud and food defence are held regularly and these can be a good source of information.
Specific susceptibility is investigated by considering all the characteristics of a specific material as it is purchased by an individual food business. Characteristics that should be considered include those associated with the supply chain, purchasing policies and the format of the material. Each characteristic should be considered with regards to how it could affect the degree to which a person may be motivated to fraudulently adulterate the material and how it could allow a person to:
a) gain access to the material,
b) commit fraud by adulterating, substituting or diluting the material or
c) avoid detection.
To ensure that all relevant characteristics are considered it is best to use a checklist and record observations against each item in the checklist. Create your own checklist or use a checklist prepared by experts such as those found in a proprietary Vulnerability Assessment Tool. There are a number of fraud assessment tools available on-line, with differing degrees of usefulness to anyone conducting a food fraud assessment. The most comprehensive checklist for food fraud vulnerability assessments can be found in Food Fraud Advisors’ Vulnerability Assessment Tools which are available here.
Need more help? Get easy-to-use, comprehensive downloadable templates in our online training course.