Spain makes most requests in EU fraud system

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Cases included tuna fraud adulteration of beeswax. Picture: iStock/AndreyPopov
Cases included tuna fraud adulteration of beeswax. Picture: iStock/AndreyPopov
Spain, Germany, Netherlands and Italy made the most requests last year in a system to deal with fraudulent activities along the agri-food chain.

Spain (52), Germany (26), Netherlands (23) and Italy (20) made the most, according to the 2017 annual report of the EU Food Fraud Network and the System for Administrative Assistance and Food Fraud (AAC-AA and AAC-FF).

However, only around half of the requests by Spain and Germany and only three of those made by the Netherlands had responses as of last month. 

France created 35 cases in the AAC-FF system during 2017 followed by Germany (32) and Italy (26).

Fraud non-compliance cases

In 2017, 178 cases were exchanged in the AAC-FF compared to 156 in 2016.

Mislabelling was responsible for 88 cases, replacement/dilution/addition/removal in product for 88, documents 36 and unapproved treatment and/or process 28 cases.

The AAC system is split into two, one dealing with non-compliances classed as fraudulent (AAC-FF) and the other with any other non-compliance (AAC-AA).

Last year 775 cases were reported in the AAC-AA and AAC-FF - a significant jump from the 243 notices in 2016.

AAC-AA data

Germany (164) and Austria (135) created the most cases in the system for suspected non-compliances regarding food where there is no health risk or indication of food fraud.

A total of 597 cases were exchanged in the AAC-AA. The AAC works on a voluntary basis for cross-border non-compliances.

Mislabelling represented 353 cases last year, replacement/dilution/addition/removal in product 162; unapproved treatment and/or process 114 and documents 54 cases.

The European Commission said numbers show although there is no obligation to use the system, Member States' authorities have embraced it to request information on suspected cases of non-compliance or food fraud from counterparts in other EU countries.

Tuna fraud

The Commission created 16 EU coordinated cases concerning fraudulent practices in 2017.

For example, measures against two fraudulent activities in the tuna sector.

The first illegal practice was sale of tuna as fresh when it should be sold as canned. Only tuna caught by vessels able to freeze it at -18C and maintain this temperature at all times until arrival at destination can be sold as fresh. Tuna kept in brine (-9C) should be canned.

The second was change of colour with use of additives (legal substances (e.g ​vegetables extracts, salts)) or illegal (such as carbon monoxide). These additives transform fish to present and sell it as fresh.

DG SANTE estimated the economic gain generated by these fraudulent practices at €200m/year. Fresh tuna is sold around €12-15 per kg, whereas canned tuna is worth €4-6 per kg.

An increase in scombroid syndrome notifications (histamine​) was found in the Rapid Alert for Food and Feed system (RASFF) in the first half of 2017.

DG SANTE is working on a clear limit for authorised additives in fresh tuna and clarifications on what is considered as processed fish.

Adulterated beeswax

Another example is beeswax intended for apiculture as a foundation for honeycombs intentionally adulterated with paraffin and stearin.

There is a potential risk for animal health and of adulterated beeswax entering the food chain in the form of honeycombs.

Withdrawal of establishments from the list of sites from which imports into EU Member States are authorised occurred in a case of nitrofurans in shrimps from India, of carbon monoxide treatment of frozen tuna loins from Indonesia and of prohibited drugs in seafood from Vietnam.

Work is ongoing on the Integrated Management System for Official Control (IMSOC), which will combine current EU-managed IT systems such as TRAde Control and Expert System (TRACES) and alert systems (RASFF/AAC and EUROPHYT).

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