There were 21 investigations in 2014, 35 in 2015; 34 in 2016 and 20 to date this year.
This pattern is reflected in Europe with the European Commission’s Food Fraud Network dealing with 156 cases in 2016, up from 108 in 2015 and 60 in 2014.
Protecting food chain and consumers
Combatting increasing levels of fraud requires inter-agency collaboration and intelligence-led insights to protect the food chain and consumer interests and health, according to speakers at a two-day conference in Ireland.
More than 300 delegates attended Safeguarding the Food Chain – Protecting Authenticity and Integrity hosted by the FSAI in partnership with safefood.
It looked at how regulators, inspectors, industry, scientists and academics can collaborate to protect consumers when violations of food law are detected in relation to food crime.
The event covered authenticity and integrity of food, the public health implications and prevention and control strategies.
Dr Pamela Byrne, CEO of FSAI, said it must remain vigilant and enhance inspection and enforcement systems to keep pace with new and emerging risks.
“Now more than ever with the increasing globalisation of food there is a need for increased focus on ensuring a secure, safe and authentic food supply chain as consumers have a right to expect the food they purchase is unadulterated, contains what is described on the label and ultimately is safe and trustworthy,” she said.
“The more we know about food crime, the motivation behind it, the potential threat it poses to our €26bn food and drink manufacturing industry; the more we can develop expert and intelligence-based approaches to focus investigations on the highest risk areas.”
Focus of Irish investigations
Dr Byrne said Irish investigations have focussed on fish, olive oil, honey, soft drinks, alcohol and beef.
“All provide evidence that while current controls are effective there are always opportunities to enhance them, strengthen national protocols and further increase collaboration with our enforcement colleagues in the official agencies, Revenue & Customs and An Garda Síochána.”
Ray Dolan, CEO of safefood, said it can help share knowledge and enhance relationships to maintain consumer confidence in the food chain.
“The recent Brexit vote also poses many wide-ranging issues for consumers when it comes to our food authenticity and traceability.”
Bérengère Dreno, specialist intellectual property crime at Europol, said food fraud harms consumers and the economy of all EU Member States.
“Intelligence gathered at Europol clearly shows the involvement of organised criminal groups in these illicit activities.”
Digitalisation in food safety
Meanwhile, emerging digital innovation is creating opportunities in the industry according to speakers at the 9th annual Maple Leaf Foods Food Safety Symposium.
More than 250 attendees from 130 companies and organizations discussed issues and trends in food safety.
Topics included traceability using blockchain, DNA-based analytics and regulatory developments such as risk based modeling to drive outcome based inspection.
Maple Leaf Foods is a protein company employing 11,500 people and does business in North America and Asia.
Speakers included Frank Yiannas, VP, food safety and health at Walmart; Paul Glover, president, Canadian Food Inspection Agency; Hugo Andres Gutierrez, VP, quality, food safety & regulatory affairs at The Hershey Company; Martin Wiedmann, professor of food safety at Cornell University and Tom Zander, SVP & general manager, Food & Beverage at Ecolab.