Commission steps up fight against food fraud and dual quality products

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: iStock/rmbarricarte
Picture: iStock/rmbarricarte
The European Commission is to launch a centre to share scientific knowledge on food fraud and quality issues.

The Knowledge Centre for Food Fraud and Quality will be run by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and funded by the European Commission.

The Commission said concerns about food fraud and quality undermine consumer confidence and damage the supply chain.

Past cases of fraud include olive oil, wine, honey, fish, dairy, meat and poultry.

The centre will operate an early warning and information system for food fraud through media monitoring.

Dual quality focus

The issue of dual quality – branded products having differences in composition depending on where they are sold but with similar packaging – has also damaged consumer trust.

The centre will coordinate market surveillance on composition and sensory properties of food with the same packaging and branding on several markets across the EU.

A method to test for dual quality products is expected to be ready next month and results published by the JRC at the end of the year.

The centre will primarily serve EC departments regulating the feed/food chain, protecting consumer rights and needs of agencies in member states.

It will complement the EU Food Fraud Network by providing an interface between science and policy-making and consists of experts from the Commission and elsewhere. Size of expert groups will depend on the subject.

The Knowledge Centre will produce newsletters, databases and reports. It will communicate via its website to the public, via a steering group to the Commission and via an expert network to authorities of member states.

It will not work on a legal definition for food fraud and/or related terms.

EU role in food fraud and quality

Tibor Navracsics, commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the JRC, will officially launch the centre later today​ with VP for the Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič and commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vêrá Jourová.

Commissioner Navracsics said food is an area where science can tangibly demonstrate the benefits it brings to citizens.

“The quality of the food we eat is important to all of us, and because food fraud is a transnational criminal activity, the EU has a clear role to play in the response.

“[The centre] will help protect the integrity of the EU food chain and safeguard the quality of food products, generating a clear added-value for Europeans​."

Commissioner Jourová said it has already taken steps to tackle food quality and unjustified differentiation.

“This newly created Knowledge Centre, bringing together experts and knowledge from different locations inside and outside the European Commission, will further contribute to collecting and processing science-based evidence.

“Its work will also contribute to developing a common testing methodology, which in turn will help us apply and enforce food and consumer protection laws.” 

Knowledge Centre host lets go of certain EURLs

The Commission confirmed it has no plans to create an EU reference centre for food authenticity.

The JRC monthly fraud summary will eventually be published twice a month.

The European Commission branch hosts the EU reference laboratory (EURL) for food contact materials, feed additives and genetically modified organisms.

It recently left responsibilities in metals and nitrogenous compounds in feed and food to DTU Food, for halogenated persistent organic pollutants in feed and food to CVUA Freiburg and for mycotoxins and plant toxins in feed and food to RIKILT.

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