PLUS FDF, BRC and SSA herb and spice authenticity guidance

Food fraud should be prosecuted under criminal law - FoodDrinkEurope

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock / rmbarricarte
©iStock / rmbarricarte

Related tags Food fraud Food safety Food standards agency Food Fraud

Food fraud compromising the safety of products and damaging public health should be prosecuted under criminal law, according to FoodDrinkEurope.

In a position paper on food fraud, the trade group said it is ‘unacceptable’ and ‘criminal’ and the industry wishes to distance itself from any such activity.

It added members are committed to supporting government efforts to fight against the issue to protect consumers and supply chains as well as maintaining trust in the industry.

The group encouraged European Union and Member States to adequately enforce the relevant legislation and to decisively prosecute.

“Those accountable for food fraud involving intentional deceptive and misleading practices with the aim of economic gain should be prosecuted,”​ it added.

Members include Cargill, Danone, Coca-Cola, DuPont, Heinz, Kellogg’s, Mars, Mondelez, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever.  

FoodDrinkEurope also made recommendations to its members including developing a risk management system within companies’ food safety/quality management systems, doing vulnerability assessments and developing prevention processes.

To protect consumers and ensure robust supply chains, companies must be alert to food fraud occurring, and work with customers and suppliers to identify and mitigate associated risks, it added.

FoodDrinkEurope told us it is important to spell out principles to combat food fraud as best as possible.

"It is correct, food fraud is by no means a recent development. It is important however, that everybody knows the opinion of the food industry on those undertaking food fraud. Food fraud is an unacceptable, criminal activity, which can pose threats to consumer trust in the food industry and, in serious cases, can even damage consumer health, as we all know,​" said the group.

Spice authenticity guidance

Meanwhile, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), the Seasoning and Spice Association (SSA), and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) have produced guidance for culinary dried herbs and spices to mitigate against adulteration and substitution.

Every part of the supply chain has a role to play in assuring product integrity, whether as growers, primary processors, herbs and spices agents and brokers, packers, food manufacturers, retailers, foodservice operators or wholesalers/cash and carry businesses, they said.

A joint working group produced the document​ with the help of Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland.

Grinding or blending of rubbed herbs and spices is the point in the supply chain where the greatest risk of adulteration can occur and knowledge of ownership at this point forms a key part of the risk assessment.

“As historically evidenced, reduction of particle size can hide adulteration and make it more difficult to detect. Dependent on the exact nature of the adulterant, suitable analytical methods to identify adulteration may already be available or may be under ongoing development.”

It advised considering vulnerabilities such as the number of countries/regions/places and intermediaries through which the original ingredient has been processed or transited, history of fraud for an ingredient/category of ingredient, seasonality and supply availability, weather events or natural disasters, food safety laws and enforcement and advances in technology to mask food fraud.

The best practice guidance came after the nuts and spices scandal, covered heavily on FQN​ last year.

Herbs and spices are potentially one of the most complex and challenging matrices to analyse as they may be highly coloured and contain chemically reactive components, according to the guidance.

“These challenges are increased with blended products, which may bring about other chemical changes, and equally with composite products containing herbs and spices due to the added complexity of the matrix.

“There will be cases where suitable and accurate testing methods are not currently available for the matrix of interest and the focus of assurance activity will therefore be on preventative measures.”

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