Food Fraud: What Does it Mean and Who is at Risk?

November 14, 2011

CHICAGO—According to a new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists, food fraud is a food protection threat that has not been clearly defined or addressed but can ultimately be a real public health vulnerability. The authors from Michigan State University explain that food fraud can be defined as an intentional act for economic gain. This differs from a food safety incident involving unintentional act with unintentional harm, and a food defense incident characterized as a deliberate focus on intentional harm.

To further clarify, food fraud is a collective term used to encompass the deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering, or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients, or food packaging; or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain.  Examples include melamine added to milk to boost the apparent protein content but are dangerous to consume over periods of time, salvaging dropped fruit that is bruised and subsequently contaminated with E. coli, and substituting less costly species of fish and misrepresenting them as more expensive species which may be toxic or cause allergic reactions. These types of food fraud ultimately pose risks to the consuming public.

The authors also write that food fraud could potentially be more dangerous than traditional food safety risks, since adulterants are typically unconventional and the current intervention and response systems are not looking for these contaminants. The authors call for additional research on the risk associated with food fraud while also citing the need to support a continued public-private partnership approach to countering food fraud.

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About IFT
The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a nonprofit scientific society. Our individual members are professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT's mission is to advance the science of food, and our long-range vision is to ensure a safe and abundant food supply, contributing to healthier people everywhere.

For more than 70 years, the IFT has been unlocking the potential of the food science community by creating a dynamic global forum where members from more than 100 countries can share, learn, and grow. We champion the use of sound science across the food value chain through the exchange of knowledge, by providing education, and by furthering the advancement of the profession. IFT has offices in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit ift.org.

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