Food fraud is estimated to affect up to 10 per cent of commercially sold food products, according to risk management company SAI Global, who suggests there are seven types of food fraud Australian businesses in the food supply chain need to be aware of.
Each year, SAI Global audits thousands of food retailers and manufacturers to ensure they comply with global food safety standards, as well as training food handlers on food safety.
SAI Global food safety spokesperson Maidie Wood said the hidden risks in a company’s supply chain need to be identified, understood and effectively managed to ensure businesses are protected against risks and hazards in the food supply chain.
“Food fraud is designed to be undetected by food brands, so it is often difficult to know its true nature and reach,” said Wood.
“When it does occur, it can be because the food brand has not formally monitored suppliers, or it has poor supplier relationships, pointing to a need for greater supplier management.
“As food supply chains become increasingly globalised and complex, with geopolitical risk factors increasing and more environmental variables impacting the availability of raw ingredients, not only will food fraud persist, it will evolve to thwart new measures introduced to stop it.”
SAI Global highlights seven types of food fraud, which includes:
Adulteration – the act of adding another substance to a food item, usually for profit. SAI Global says it has found many food businesses do not have strong enough measure in place to protect their food from adulteration, with spices, such as oregano leaves, most at risk.
Tampering – the intentional modification of a food product or packaging, which can make the product harmful to the consumer. Cases such as the strawberry tampering incident in 2018, as well as the deliberate extension of expiry dates on dairy or meat products, can have potentially hazardous consequences.
Over run (unauthorised production) – legitimate products that are made in excess of production agreements. This can lead to a potential fraudulent product that is distributed outside of a regulated or controlled supply chain.
Theft – where legitimate products are stolen and enter the market through less regulated means. This risk can see products be smuggled, co-mingled with other products and then redistributed to reach a target market.
Diversion – the sale or distribution of legitimate products that do not reach its target market, such as the diversion of relief food to markets where aid is not needed or required.
Counterfeit – the act of passing inferior goods as established, reputable brands. This includes production of foods outside of regulatory controls, such as olive oil, spices and honey.
Simulation – occurs when an illegitimate product is designed to look like, but not exactly copy, a legitimate product. SAI Global says an Australian honey company “came under fire” in 2018 after tests found almost half of supermarket honey samples had been adulterated with sugar syrup. “Essentially, fraudsters had created a ‘knock off’ honey and were selling it for a higher price.”
SAI Global provides a number of food safety certifications and training courses for industry professionals to ensure greater awareness in the food supply chain.