Food Fraud

Awareness of food fraud and food crime is increasing. Following the “horse meat crisis” the UK government tasked Professor Chris Elliott with looking into food supply networks, and to make recommendations. The report published in 2014 made recommendations based upon eight pillars of food integrity. These were consumers first, zero tolerance, intelligence gathering, laboratory services, audit, government support, leadership and crisis management

Food fraud and food crime have been conducted for thousands of years. Examples in the Victorian period are documented where vegetables were coloured with copper, and milk was diluted with dirty water and flour. Accum published a treatise exposing examples of adulteration and substitution and was denounced at the time. He was later shown to be correct. There is more about food fraud history here.

food fraud
Accreditation cow in field

Recent examples

The horse meat substitution of beef in Europe and adulteration of baby formula in China  hit  headlines and profit margins. Toxic cooking oil in Spain in the 1980s led to an estimated 1,000 deaths. There were more than 25,000 seriously injured.Many of the injured were permanently disabled. The source was not found.

The horse meat substitution did not cause deaths, to our knowledge. However, the source of the horses, and therefore horse meat is unknown. In the UK we have regulations regarding antibiotics and other medication prior to slaughter. Before the animal enters into the food chain, it is rested. The animals supplied into the food chain which were labelled as beef, were slaughtered in unknown abattoirs and of unknown provenance. Subsequent investigations by regulatory authorities have identified other meat which was mis-labelled in retail outlets such as takeaways.

Operation Opson

An international co operation now exists which is led by Interpol.  It is thought to be the largest cooperation of government agencies and private companies. Opson investigates food fraud and includes agencies both inside and outside of Europe and USA. The Operation Opson report is generally published mid year and the 2020 (Opson IX) report is here

There is also a free Guide to protecting and defending food and drink from deliberate attack (PAS 96:2017) downloadable from the FSA website here.

Food Fraud

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