special edition: food fraud

Brexit should not affect amount of food fraud – NSF

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Istock/Bank215
Picture: Istock/Bank215

Related tags: Food fraud, United kingdom, European union, Food, Fraud

Brexit should not affect standards of food safety and quality or the amount of fraud in the system, according to NSF International.

The group said fraud is global and organised crime does not respect borders but the primary responsibility for food safety and fraud prevention lies with the food business operator, which is enshrined in EU and UK law.

It added EU anti-fraud institutions like the Food Fraud Network (FFN) already work with national institutions (i.e. UK FSA’s food crime unit) inside and outside the EU and will continue to do so.

Brexit is the possibility of Britain leaving the EU and a referendum is planned for June.

Business rely on own tools to minimise fraud risk

Jude Mason, director, consulting and tech services at NSF International, said for clients food safety is a top priority and a matter of consumer safety and brand protection.

“At the end of the day businesses rely on their own sophisticated tools, internal processes and checks and controls to minimise the risk of fraud in their supply chains​,” she told FoodQualityNews.

“With ingredients being sourced all over the world, ensuring product and ingredient authenticity is one of the most pressing concerns food businesses have to deal with today​.

“We have all learnt the lessons of Horsegate when it was seen that illegal meat travelled across several borders unchecked and it was as a result of this that the EU made fraud a much higher priority and started to put in place reporting and sharing mechanisms which now include the Food Fraud Network.” 

However, fraudsters and organised crime operate throughout the world and are not deterred by distance or border customs checks, she said.

“If the profit incentive is high enough they will commit adulteration, substitution and mislabelling crimes whether inside or outside of the EU.

“Europol and Interpol already have strong relationships with national authorities for data sharing and collaboration with many countries across the world, including the UK. Today’s supply chains are long and complex stretching across many national boundaries.”

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) recently said​ 71% of its members who took a survey "overwhelmingly endorse" the decision to stay in the EU.

FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) also said the uncertainty from a decision to leave the EU would be ‘bad for the UK, bad for Europe and bad for business.’

Transcending national boundaries

When asked why some believe Brexit could affect food fraud, which was around before the EU, Mason said people with an agenda will always look for reasons to support their arguments.

“The current situation is that it is the national responsibility of each member country of the EU to combat and prosecute fraud within their borders. Every country still has different regulations and policies. The EU is in the process of taking steps to harmonise this situation.

“It is also now playing an increasingly important role in facilitating information sharing across borders, especially through the FFN. It has its own anti-fraud organisation, OLAF, and works alongside entities such as Europol (within and outside Europe) Interpol (global jurisdiction), and collaborates and benefits from the international RASSF fraud reporting database (global).”

Mason said the new sentencing guidelines also place a further burden of due diligence on food business owners.

“You also have to remember that the international food industry has had in place for nearly 30 years a system of assurance and certification which now provides traceability back through each stage of the supply chain to pre-farm gate,” ​she said.

“This transcends all national boundaries and goes a long way to ensuring the safety and quality of the food we eat. International scheme owners, like GFSI, have now also enhanced their standards to provide more robust controls against food fraud e.g. vulnerability assessments.”

NSF said fighting fraud involves approaches to risk minimisation in the supply chain, using horizon scanning and predictive analytics to identify with greater certainty where problems might arise.

“Businesses are increasingly recognising that strategic, board-led approaches to developing good internal food safety cultures, supported by robust, risk-led testing and controls, is the most effective way of creating and maintaining food safety​,” said Mason.

“We also believe that responsible sourcing is a key to risk mitigation, by developing stable and trusted relationships with suppliers and having sight and understanding of the whole supply chain. 

“Advancing technology will undoubtedly play a role, with the development of new methods to detect foodfraud, such as sensor technology, data analysis and next-generation DNA sequencing.”

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