The Rise of Food Fraud Throughout The Pandemic | How to Protect Your Brand

Katie Paterson

March 9, 2021

What is food crime?

Food crime is defined as any “serious fraud and related criminality in food supply chains. This definition also includes activity impacting on drink and animal feed. It can be seriously harmful to consumers, food businesses and the wider food industry” (Food Standards Agency).

Some examples of food crime

· Theft

· Illegal Processing – Unapproved premises/unauthorised techniques

· Waste Diversion – Diverting food back into the supply chain when meant for disposal

· Adulteration – Foreign substance which is not on the product’s label to low costs or fake high quality

· Substitution – Replacing with another similar substance

· Misrepresentation – Wrong labelling (Quality, safety, origin)

· Document Fraud

The rise of food fraud throughout the pandemic

The impact that the pandemic has had on the food industry has been immense. With hospitality being shut for the majority of the last year and thousands of businesses closing.

A report by the government-backed Food Authenticity Network found that food crime has been on a rise since the beginning of the pandemic.

Key points

• The worst hit categories were spirits, wine and honey.

• The animal production chain networks are also more vulnerable to food fraud

• Adulteration cases increased by 30%

• Counterfeit incidents increased by 47%

Why have we seen an increase

Audits are an essential prerequisite in the food industry. Regularly auditing suppliers is essential to keep food fraud at bay, without audits, the perfect environment is created for opportunists seeking to commit food crime.

Europol has said that its annual Operation OPSON which targets trafficking of counterfeit and substandard food and beverages, last year “found a new disturbing trend” in the infiltration of low-quality products into the supply chain. It said this development was “possibly linked” to the pandemic.

Jürgen Stock, Interpol secretary general at the time says “As countries around the world continue their efforts to contain Covid-19, the criminal networks distributing these potentially dangerous products show only their determination to make a profit.” The public should be vigilant about what they buy, and law enforcements must continue fighting food crime.

How to stay vigilant

The FSA have recently published an article detailing their food fraud self checker.

The Food Fraud Resilience Self-Assessment Tool allows businesses and employees to anonymously fill out a series of questions to determine the risk of food crime to their business.

Find the questionnaire here:  Food fraud resilience self-assessment tool | Food Standards Agency.

How NT can help

At NT we have a team of experienced food safety consultants who can help you manage your products to reduce the risk of food fraud from contaminating your supply chains.

If you need support, NT Assure boasts a team of highly qualified and experienced consultants, on hand to advise our clients on a range of expertise including:

• Food Labelling

• Specification Writing

• Supplier Auditing

• Internal Auditing

• Food Safety/Labelling Training

• Brand Protection

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References
http://www.foodauthenticity.global/blog/new-article-published-has-covid-19-caused-a-significant-increase-

Global food fraud rising as result of pandemic, report finds | News | The Grocer

https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2020/12/meat-and-alcohol-on-radar-of-food-crime-unit/

https://www.food.gov.uk/news-alerts/news/fsa-launches-new-tool-to-help-businesses-assess-food-crime-risks