Symposium targets food fraud prevention and mitigation

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/CharlieAJA
©iStock/CharlieAJA

Related tags: Food fraud, Food, Food and agriculture organization

Regulators and experts from academia, government and industry are meeting in Quebec this week to discuss food fraud.

The event (4-5 April) at the Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City is organised by the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods (INAF) and the Department of Food Science of Université Laval with the Institute of Global Food Security of Queen's University (QUB) of Belfast and the Quebec Research and Innovation Consortium on Industrial Bioprocesses (CRIBIQ).

Food fraud incidents hurt the reputation of countries or regions, undermine the trust of consumers, and harm integrity of regulatory system of these countries with economic consequences.

Developments in foresight, laboratory detection methods and management tools available to industry and regulators will be discussed to identify gaps and opportunities for collaboration.

"…we are hoping that Quebec City witnesses once more, the creation of a new momentum for collective action to fight food fraud and to support consumer confidence in the integrity of our food supply,"​ said Dr Samuel Godefroy, professor of food risk analysis at Université Laval, research scientist at INAF and one of the program organizers​.

Regulators from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the US Food and Drug Administration, the European Commission and the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, China and Australia are attending.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) will be represented.

Organization is supported by R-Biopharm Canada Inc., the Mars Global Food Safety Center in China, the International Association of Official Analytical Communities (AOAC), the International Union on Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) and the European FoodIntegrity Network.

The conference comes as Laurent Lessard, minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Quebec, announced a new inspection program last week to combat fraud.

It applies to all Quebec retail establishments that prepare ground beef or veal.

It comes after a report by TVA​ on tests by Quebec Matin that found three out of four ground beef and veal from supermarkets contained pork as tested by the Environex Group.

MSU creates FFTT and Scotland raising awareness

In other developments, Michigan State University (MSU) has created the MSU Food Fraud Think Tank (FFTT).

Founding members include Danone, Mars, Cargill, Wegmans, Mondelez and Hershey.

MSU said a "spark" is needed to transition food fraud to a globally harmonized standard operating procedure and without focused effort the momentum could be lost or implementation might become fractured.

The FFTT will operate within the MSU Food Fraud Initiative (FFI).

MSU is also working with a Codex Alimentarius Electronic Work Group which is creating a draft discussion paper on food authenticity and integrity (food fraud) to be discussed at the next meeting. 

Meanwhile, the Scottish Food Crime Unit, part of Food Standards Scotland (FSS) is raising awareness of the different types of food fraud, potential seriousness and how to report it.

Defined as any deliberate manipulation, substitution, mislabelling or fraud in relation to food and drink, food fraud costs the UK economy around £1.2bn each year, according to the Food Crime Annual Strategic Assessment.

Foods which can be targeted include substitution of almond powder for peanut powder, illegal shellfish harvesting, rice, honey, alcohol, olive oil, oregano and turmeric.

Ron McNaughton, head of FSS’s Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit, said it was vital that food and drink is safe and is what we expect it to be. 

“Food fraud is a silent and almost invisible threat and we are committed to working closely with partners to help people become more vigilant and aware of the risks involved in fraudulent activity.”

Related topics: Science, Food safety, Food Safety & Quality

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