Food Fraud is the deliberate production and/or commercialization of non-compliant food for economic gain that could impact consumer health. Food fraud occurs when products do not comply with legislation, for example they are not produced following the «correct» process, do not contain the «correct» ingredients or do not match the label, declared origin, etc.
There is no EU agreed definition of "food fraud". However, it is broadly accepted that it covers cases where the EU food law is intentionally violated to pursue an economic or financial gain through consumer deception.
Food frauds undermine product authenticity: product origin, biological characteristics (species, types) and quality (PDO, PGI). This problem especially affects highly valuable premium products. However, the increasing complexity of food chains, the economic crisis and the shortening of supplies have globally increased the pressure to commit food adulteration.
Food fraud is a global and continuously evolving phenomenon. The way foods are counterfeited can be very original and creative; it evolves so quickly that we can imagine a kind of race between fraudsters looking for undetectable ways to commit food fraud for financial gain, and laboratories finding suitable analytical solutions to prevent it.
Food fraud is estimated to cost the global food industry US$30 to $40 billion every year (John Spink, Michigan State University).
10% of food products are affected by food fraud. Considering the frequent product recall, the risk to consumers’ health and economic interests, brand reputation and consequences thereof, worldwide food counterfeiting is worth $1.7 trillion (source: Roger Sexton undercurrentnews, 2015 ; BGFC executive chairman).
Food adulteration has become such a substantial topic that food fraud risk monitoring is now required by most important international standards like BRC, IFS, FSSC 22000, etc.
Recently, the food industry has experienced several fraud events, some of which had dramatic effects such as melamine in milk and carcinogenic Sudan Red dye in paprika. Events like the 2013 horse meat scandal, fish frauds (Oceana 2012-14) or false geographic origins of premium products, showed that food authenticity, namely quality and safety, must be safeguarded.
There are many types of food adulteration. The most common adulterations concern species and quality (horse meat in beef lasagna, fish freshness, spice adulteration, etc.), geographic origin (Extra Virgin Olive Oil, PDO Cheese, Honey, etc.), organic claims for non-organic vegetables (pesticides), etc.
According to the European Parliament, the ten most adulterated products are:
- Olive oil
- Organic products
- Milk and dairy
- Honey and maple syrup
- Coffee and tea
- Spices (saffron, chili powder, etc.)
- Fruit juices
(Report on the food crisis, fraud in the food chain and their control (2013/2091 (INI)) Eu Parliament based on Spink et al., 2013)