Food fraud occurs when food or drink is sold in a way that deliberately misleads or deceives consumers or customers for financial gain (Food Fraud Advisors, 2015)
Food fraud occurs in two different forms:
1. Fraudulent activity that does not involve tampering with the food itself:
This includes activity such as avoidance of taxes, duties and quota restrictions (fishing), fraudulent paperwork such as forged importation documents, misrepresentation of origin, changing best-before dates and counterfeiting of popular brands.
2. Adulteration of food for economic gain:
This is sometimes referred to as economically motivated adulteration or EMA. In this phrase, the word ‘adulteration’ is used to encompass many types of tampering, such as adding unauthorised substances, substituting undeclared substances for genuine components of a food or diluting a food product with cheaper substances.
Food fraud is a type of food crime, with food crime including food fraud and other activities such as the use of food shipments to mask drug trafficking and money-laundering through the trading of food and food commodities.
Food fraud and the risks it presents to the food industry is a separate subject to food safety, although fraud-affected food can be unsafe. Food safety relates to unintentional contamination of food and the presence of naturally occurring contaminants.
Food defence (food defense) is a term that has come to be defined as the effort to prevent acts of adulteration that are intended to cause harm to a food business or to consumers, such as acts of terrorism or attempted extortion.
Food security, as defined by the World Health Organisation exists “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”.
Risk or vulnerability? In the language of food fraud, the term risk is usually replaced with the term ‘vulnerability’, so food standards bodies are increasingly talking about vulnerability assessments rather than risk assessments. ‘Vulnerability’ is used because food fraud ‘risks’ do not exactly fit with the accepted definition of risk as something that has occurred frequently, will occur again and for which there is enough data to make quantitative assessments. Vulnerability is a better term for food fraud, due to the fact that the ‘risk’ of a specific fraudulent activity occurring cannot be quantitatively assessed.
Horizon scanning is another term that has been co-opted to the language of food fraud. 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 affect coffee production which could drive up prices and increase fraudulent activity in that sector. Click here for the complete low-down on horizon scanning.
TACCP: Threat Assessment Critical Control Point. TACCP = prevention of malicious threats to food.
VACCP: Vulnerability Assessment Critical Control Point. VACCP = food fraud prevention. Learn more about TACCP and VACCP here.
Intentional Adulteration: Although food fraud activities often involve the intentional adulteration of food with unauthorised substances, within the food safety industry, Intentional Adulteration has recently been given a more specific meaning. And it is not related to food fraud at all. It is related to food defense, and more specifically to activities intended to cause wide scale harm to consumers. There is a rule within the USA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), that addresses these activities. It is known as the Intentional Adulteration rule. According to the US FDA (2019), Intentional Adulteration is the deliberate contamination of food with a biological, chemical, radiological, or physical agent by an individual or group of individuals with the intent to cause wide scale public health harm. How to protect against intentional adulteration.