Food fraud on the rise?

Cross-border food fraud cases jumped from 178 in 2017 to 234 last year, according to the EU Food Fraud Network’s annual report. In 2016 there were 157 requests for cooperation between countries.

Fish and fish products had the largest number of requests (45), followed by meat and meat products (41), fats and oils (29) and alcoholic beverages (17).

Mislabelling was the most common type of fraud detected (42%), followed by falsified or missing documentation (21%) and replacement, dilution or addition to a product (19%).

“The complex nature of our globalised food supply chains and the economic motivation to provide cheaper food products have contributed to the prevalence of food fraud,” the report noted.

The EU Food Fraud Network was created in 2013. It allows EU member states and some other European countries to work together when national authorities are faced with food fraud. They exchange information within what’s called the Administrative Assistance and Cooperation System (AAC), an IT system that’s been up and running since 2015.

Indeed, the rise in requests could be the result of better detection and better intelligence. On the other hand, criminal activity could have increased. The rise in requests last year could also be the result of all of the above, suggested Professor Chris Elliott on Twitter.

The cost of fraud to the global food industry has been estimated at around 30 billion (£26 billion) every year. Recent high profile cases include horse meat found in beef products (2013) and fipronil discovered in eggs (2017), both of which drew worldwide attention.

“As a result, competent authorities are losing credibility, companies are losing money and consumers are losing trust in food. It creates a major paradox: EU food is safer than ever, yet consumer’s trust is low,” the Network noted.

The full report is available here.

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