What is food fraud?

Food fraud is the collective term used for the deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or packaging, or false or misleading statements made about a product, for economic gain.

It is a growing global issue, and results in long-term damage to the economy and to the food industry. And while it is not the intention of food fraud to harm consumers, such acts may present a significant threat to public health.

Why must we prevent it?

The prevention of food fraud is vital, to protect your brand and to protect consumers.

All role players in the food supply network are liable for managing risks and legally required to meet the requirements stipulated in the relevant South African regulations. Furthermore, food fraud risk mitigation is a requirement in Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards such as BRC and FSSC 22000.

A lack of control can lead to dire consequences, including financial losses due to product withdrawals, recalls, prosecutions and civil lawsuits; these are all common results of fraudulent adulteration.

Preventing Food Fraud

How to prevent it

A food fraud management and prevention system is a continuous process aimed at identifying and addressing vulnerabilities in the supply chain.

FACTS has identified the value of applying a holistic and multi-disciplinary approach, combined with robust and appropriate authenticity testing to reinforce prevention, as being key to managing food fraud effectively. With this at the centre of our approach, our services range from subscriptions to a globally recognised food fraud database, training, consulting, and industry-leading analytical services. These allow us to support our clients with an integrated and comprehensive approach to addressing vulnerability assessments and prevention strategies in collaboration with our international partner networks.

Service Offering:

  • Food Fraud Database software subscriptions – for scanning of historical threats and incidents
  • Horizon-scanning software subscriptions – for developing threats
  • Regulatory expertise to assist with public policies and legislation
  • Identifying food fraud opportunities
  • Vulnerability assessments
  • Risk assessments and creating the control sheet
  • Implementation of controls and mitigation strategies
  • Public Workshops and on-site training solutions
  • Testing for food fraud detection and product authenticity

FACTS are committed to continuous and purposeful innovation to assist with detecting, deterring and preventing food fraud.

Contact us for more information about how we can support you with your food fraud prevention plan.


What is the difference between Food Fraud and Food Defence?

Both food fraud and food defence relate to intentional adulteration. However, food defence refers to acts where the intent is to cause harm to consumers and companies, while the goal of food fraud is economic gain (not harm).

Threat Assessment and Critical Control Points (TACCP) is a management process that focuses on the prevention of malicious threats (referred to as food defence) to food, such as sabotage, extortion or terrorism.

Vulnerability Assessment and Critical Control Points (VACCP) focuses on food fraud and includes systematic prevention of any potential adulteration of food by identifying the vulnerable points in a supply chain.

What is a food fraud incident?

An incident is a documented occurrence of food fraud in a food ingredient or product, within a defined timeframe. Incidents are often reported in the media and tend to include contextual and supporting information about the perpetrator, motive, geographic location and/or other characteristics. An example of a food fraud incident is the horse meat scandal of 2013.

There are reliable databases that allow one to search for reported food-fraud cases by simply entering the food ingredients of interest. This can help food businesses to understand the history and vulnerability of such ingredients.

FACTS are the South African agent for the Decernis Food Fraud Database.

Which food products are most at risk for food fraud?

Most foods are susceptible to food fraud. Food fraud is not a new concern, and there seems to have been an increase in incidents over the recent years. Some of the ‘repeat victims’ often found in the top 10 most fraudulent foods are olive oil, fish, organic foods, milk, grains, honey, maple syrup, spices, wine, coffee, tea and fruit juices. However, it is important address the vulnerabilities and risks associated with all products, both incoming goods (e.g., ingredients) and outgoing goods (finished products), through to the consumer.

How do I decide which ingredient and/or adulterant substance to test for?

A vulnerability assessment is a systematic review of supply chain weaknesses, with the aim of preventing food fraud. The scope of the assessment includes all types of frauds and for all products; taking into consideration multiple factors (e.g. historical incidents, raw material assessments and supplier evaluation). This exercise enables the identification of high-risk ingredients for adulteration, assessing what adulterants to look for in these ingredients, and determining which countermeasure will be most suitable for a specific risk.

How do I select the best test method based on my requirements?

Testing is a key element of effective fraud prevention, and is one of the methods for managing identified vulnerabilities for raw materials (including packaging) procured for the manufacture of food products.

The challenge with selecting relevant analysis is that often, standard methods that might be used to identify adulterants, are unavailable. Additionally, the adulterants themselves are often a moving target, requiring constant vigilance. It becomes necessary to develop an analytical approach that can make use of the full spectrum of techniques available to detect a possible adulterant (recognised by identifying known and possible adulterants). Detection may require more than one method to be used to investigate the sample.

FACTS helps take the guesswork out of food fraud testing. Our leading expertise in the analytical field, combined with our comprehensive testing offerings (including our unique custom analysis service), allows us to identify the appropriate analytical solutions to meet your objectives.

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