Rat meat Food Fraud should not be unexpected… but the Food Fraud incidents are getting to be what the New York Times stated as “…new depths of disgust.” We know there has been meat protein fraud, rats are a meat protein option in many parts of the world, and there are reports of global rat infestations due to many natural and human factors. This is just another Food Fraud incident and, unfortunately, more are sure to follow. The series of Food Fraud incidents – melamine, horse meat, rat meat – is clarifying that the vulnerability of every Food Fraud incident reaches to every dinner table in the world.
If you missed it, last Friday the Beijing News reported the release of a Chinese Ministry of Public Security report on combating food crime, which included a mention of rat meat… and 22 tons of fraudulent food seized. I stated that the rat meat fraud reported should not be unexpected, a statement that becomes clear when we consider the Fraud Opportunity. The bad guys believe they are making a logical decision to commit fraud that will result in an economic gain. In criminology theory this is the Rational Choice Theory.
Applying this criminology theory is especially helpful in reducing the fraud opportunity because the fraud requires extensive planning and exploitation of a unique opportunity that is a combination of the victim’s vulnerability and the fraudster’s unique opportunity. The fraudsters are making what they believe to be a rational choice… so our countermeasures should have a significant impact on the decision to commit the fraud. The first step is to understand the fraud opportunity and then change the characteristics of the environment so that the rational choice is to not attack this product, market, or company. Prevention is possible by understanding and applying in interdisciplinary approach that includes criminology theory.
The actions of governments contribute to reducing the fraud opportunity… as was reported in the rat meat Food Fraud. It is very promising that the governments are taking an intelligence analysis-based approach and looking for where there should be fraud. The Food Fraud public health threat is becoming well known. Consumer fears are multiplying the economic impact for companies or even for the gross domestic product of a country when there are concerns about the safety of domestic or exported products.
The government led the rat meat Food Fraud investigations and the arrests… and the public was alerted through a government report news release. The investigation was quite a commitment since it was reported to have occurred over three months and resulted in over 300 cases and over 900 arrests. This rat meat fraud incident is novel because it was revealed by the regulators. The next step will be to monitor the levels of prosecution, the length of the actual prison sentences, and then the diligence in continuing to monitor this fraud.
Food Fraud is not like a broken leg that is fixed with one treatment; it is like managing diabetes… a long-term process. Along the way, education will be a key to staying on the path of prevention.
Considering the global series of Food Fraud incidents, future Food Fraud incidents could be tied to every dinner table in the world… each incident will potentially have global consequences. But all is not lost since the multi-disciplinary research approach is leveraging solid theories to focus on prevention through modifying the fraud opportunity. Food Safety meets intelligence analysis meets criminology-based security practices meets Enterprise Risk Management. Come to think about it, considering the global Food Fraud opportunity, is it surprising that the investigations only found 22 tons? JWS.
Buckely, Chris. (2013) Rat Meat Sold as Lamb Highlights Fear in China, New York Times, May 3, 2013 [Online]
Cornish, Derek and Clarke, Ronald (1986). The Reasoning Criminal, New York: Springer-Verlang
Martina, Michael and Huang, Sally (2013). Rat Meat sold as Mutton: Crackdown Sparks Dozens of Arrests in China, Reuters
Carter, Jeremy and Rip, Michael (2012). Homeland Security and Public Health: A Critical Integration Criminal Justice Policy Review, 5, first published on August 28, 2012