Food fraud prevention: steps to keep your business safe
We all want to trust the food we eat. Unfortunately, food fraud is a rising concern that can often be difficult to detect. Nowadays, the burden placed on manufacturers to avoid these fraudulent suppliers is immense. Not only to protect their consumers, but also their brand from financial ramifications. And, considering the recent introduction of Natasha’s Law, it’s more important than ever to ensure that food crimes are eliminated in the food supply chain.
In this blog, we explore the root causes of food crime and go on to provide tips on how to safeguard your own business against food fraud in your supply chain.
What is food fraud?
Food fraud is a type of food crime that has been around for centuries. It can range from the:
- Mislabelling of food
- Counterfeiting and dilution of food products
- Selling of products that are beyond their use by date
- Selling of fake and poorer quality food products
This is almost always committed for simple economic gain. It can occur at any stage of the food supply chain, from farmers to manufacturers, to retailers.
Why does food fraud happen?
Can globalisation cause food fraud?
It is estimated that food fraud costs the global food industry around €30 billion every year.
The globalisation of the food industry can make it easier for food fraud to go undetected. With the food sector supply chain now spanning multiple countries, it can be difficult to track down the source of a fraudulent food product. This makes it easier for fraudsters to slip counterfeit products through the cracks, leading to serious food safety issues.
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How to prevent food fraud?
So, we’ve discussed what food fraud is and the most frequent causes for its occurrence. Now, let's look at how to prevent your business falling victim to it.
Proactive food defence plan using ‘The Four A’s’ (assess, access, alert, audit)
- The first step is to assess the vulnerability of the facility and its supply chain to identify potential risks and weak points.
- Next, access controls are put in place to restrict entry to sensitive areas and prevent unauthorized access. This can include physical barriers, security cameras, and ID card systems.
- An alert system is also established to quickly detect and respond to any suspicious activities or incidents.
- Finally, regular audits are conducted to review the effectiveness of the food defence plan to ensure it remains effective to changing threats and identify areas for improvement.
To carry out a proactive food defence plan using ‘The Four A's,’ forming a food defence team with representatives from all relevant departments, such as quality assurance, production, and security is often a good place to start. By using a centralised, digital food management system, all relevant information captured helps to keep your staff on the same page.
Supplier due diligence
One of the best ways to know if your supplier is committing food fraud is through due diligence. This includes conducting investigations into the supplier's business operations and financials, verifying the authenticity of the ingredients and products supplied, and conducting regular product testing.
It’s important to be mindful of any sudden changes in pricing or product offerings, as these may be signs of food fraud. It is also good practice to remain informed of any warnings or advisories concerning your supplier's products or operations. And, of course, liaising with other industry stakeholders to participate in multilateral initiatives such as the GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) is another great way of joining the fight against food fraud.
Regular testing on ingredients
Ultimately, regular ingredient testing is an essential tool for safeguarding the quality and authenticity of our food supply. Not only so you can ensure that the ingredients you use are free from adulteration or substitutions, but also to avoid any negative impacts on consumer health or trust. Keep in mind that this is step is particularly important for high-risk foods that are more susceptible to fraud due to their high market value and limited availability; oils and spices, for instance.
Using a traceability system can significantly decrease the possibility of food fraud, thereby averting any undesirable outcomes for your business. For instance, a robust food management system such as Ideagen Quality Management, can track the movement of food throughout the supply chain, from farm to fork. This allows for easy identification of any potential issues, such as contaminated or fraudulent ingredients, which can be quickly addressed to prevent harm to consumers.
In fact, a study conducted by the Grocery Manufacturers Association found that companies with good traceability systems in place can identify the source of a food safety issue up to 90% faster than those without such systems. Ultimately, implementing a traceability system is an essential step towards ensuring the safety and authenticity of your food supply.
Reliable third-party verification
Reliable third-party verification is a powerful tool in the fight against food fraud. It involves an independent organization inspecting a manufacturer's products, processes, and supply chain to confirm compliance with industry standards and regulations. This can include on-site audits, product testing, and documentation review, helping to demonstrate to consumers and regulators that their products are safe.
While third-party verification is not mandatory in most instances, specific regulatory bodies that provide certification may require it for a product. One example would be those claiming to be Kosher. Based on your findings, it’s important that the relevant authorities are contacted, should you suspect or have proof your supplier is engaging in food crime.
The pursuit of safer food is an ongoing process, with room for continual improvement. Therefore, after identifying reputable and accredited third-party to complete a supplier audit, it’s vital you’re regularly reviewing their verification results. This helps you to continually identify areas for improvement and implementing corrective actions as needed.
We understand that preventing food fraud may seem like an uphill battle as a food manufacturer. And while the fight against food fraud may never be entirely won, with vigilance, collaboration, and ongoing improvement, you can take comfort in knowing that you have done your part to ensure that our food supply remains safe, transparent, and trustworthy.
Ideagen Quality Management identify every step that your raw materials take, from farm to fork. With our innovative food quality management software, thoroughly map your supply chain to keep your brand safe from the bad press that comes with food fraud.
Watch our on-demand webinar
Find out more about the dangers of food fraud in our on demand webinar where we are joined several food industry professionals discussing the key details of safeguarding your business from the fatal consequences of undeclared allergensWatch the on-demand webinar