The EU Food Fraud resolution just passed from committee for a full European Parliament vote in early 2014. Defining Food Fraud and a focus on preventative actions are no longer just academic exercises. That said, our new article is perfect timing, with very important insight for implementing regulations and industry best practices.
Focus Research on Prevention
There have been incredible advances in Food Science and Food Integrity testing. A key to our success in preventing Food Fraud will be our balancing what we “can” do with what we “need” to do. The effort to focus research on prevention will be critical to protecting the food supply – our goal is not to just find adulterants. Our goal is to create a system where they don’t get in the food in the first place! From our article, “Whilst better means of detecting Food Fraud are required, ‘success’ must be measured in terms of how the activities support prevention. We need a systems approach to optimize the roles of all food supply chain and research partners.”
Food Industry Leads Efforts
In the article, a concept we emphasize and explain is that it is critical to have food experts leading — or at least involved in — every aspect of Food Fraud prevention efforts. “There are very unique aspects of the complex food production systems that are baffling to outsiders. There are complexities to authenticating food that are unlike any other sciences – the complexity of profiling a multi-component food product requires methodologies that are still far from routine or easy to use and interpret. There is an incredible amount of inherent variation in the same food product produced over the course of a year.”
Harmonization of Terms
We emphasize in the article that harmonization of terms and prevention efforts are both critical to a global, efficient, and effective effort. As I’ve published on and presented for years, Situational Crime Prevention and the use of the Crime Triangle is a great way to deconstruct the fraud opportunity and really focus on prevention (Thank you Dr. Robyn Mace, MSU School of Criminal Justice, for introducing me to the topic back in 2006).
The Role of Science and Technology
Of course traditional Food Science and the more recent focus area of Food Integrity (Food Authentication) both have critical roles in Food Fraud prevention. That said, there cannot be just a technology solution. Food Fraud prevention requires a systems approach that includes supply chain management, criminology, and other fields, such as quality management. “For Food Fraud, the straightforward measure of the presence or absence of a contaminant is only part of ‘the puzzle,’ and in contrast to food safety hazards, there is a near infinite number of adulterants. In the case of diversion, stolen goods, or production overruns, the fraud does not include an adulterant at all. Actually, the Food Fraud is conducted with genuine products.”
Acknowledging my Co-Authors
I’m very proud and honored to have worked with co-authors Professor Christopher Elliott and Kevin Swoffer on this article. Chris is a world renowned expert on Food Science and has conducted some incredible innovative research in Food Integrity and Authenticity. He is the Director of the Global Food Security Institute at Queen’s University (Belfast). He also is leading an independent UK review of the food supplies network following the horsemeat scandal. Kevin Swoffer has been a constant colleague and supporter since we met at MSU back in 2007. He is the Director of KPS Resources. He has over 30 years’ experience within the food manufacture and retail sectors. He was one of the founding members of the GFSI in 2000 and has been actively involved in its development. More recently, Kevin and I have been interacting and discussing the Food Fraud Think Tank for the Global Food Safety Initiative. Collaborating on this article was a great opportunity to really harmonize our thinking.
Food Fraud is not new, but the science is providing a frame within which we all work. By coordinating our activities – the theorists and scholars first – we can be much more efficient. Play your part and stay up on the latest thinking… link to the article to see the full discussion. JWS.
Spink, J, Elliott, CT, Swoffer, KP, (2013) Defining Food Fraud Prevention to Align Food Science and Technology Resources, Food Science & Technology Journal, Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST), Volume 27 (Number 4), December, pp 00-00. [Accessed December 2, 2013], https://fstjournal.org/features/27-4/food-fraud