Food fraud is a growing area of concern among suppliers and manufacturers. The intentional misrepresentation of food can cause problems throughout the supply chain and lead to mistrust, according to three panelists in a multi-session conversation on July 12 at IFT FIRST.
The session centered around a central question: what are the emerging areas of food fraud? Each of the three panelists described the types of food fraud seen in the industry, types of vulnerability assessments that can be done, and mitigation steps to be taken in cases of fraud. Prior to the event, the panelists provided on-demand videos about the topic.
“Fraud is enabled in chaos,” said Tim Lombardo, senior director for EAS Consulting Group. “We look at the last several years of this pandemic and now the supply chain shortages and out of this chaos comes fraud.”
Food fraud is usually seen in processed foods, with the substitution or addition of ingredients without disclosing the information to the manufacturer or consumer. Lombardo explained that there is more risk for food fraud when the product is not in its whole form. He gave examples of vulnerable products, including honey, olive oil, and fish.
But fraud can also be present in labeling, not just the food product itself. A product can be labeled as “organic” but has been manufactured using conventional methods. These misrepresentations are usually performed for economic gain and to trick the consumer or manufacturer.
John Szpylka, an analytical chemist with Food Safety Net Services, described the different tests that can be used to determine whether a food product is fraudulent. He said that the industry is still behind on testing but getting close.
“Right now we can detect the adulterants we know about,” he explained. “So we in the analytical world are playing catch-up with the fraudsters.”
Szpylka described the use of a non-targeted test, which would create a “fingerprint” for the product in question. A test product can be measured against a known product to see how similar and different they are to find where there may be adulterants added.
In addition to non-targeted tests, it’s important for auditors visiting manufacturers and suppliers to have background knowledge before performing a vulnerability assessment. Tammie Van Buren, manager of compliance at SQFI, said that auditors need to do their homework.
“If you’re going to a meat facility, you have to understand the opportunities for an adulterant in that industry,” she explained. “The fraudsters are one or two steps ahead of us, and we have to keep up through educating ourselves.”
In order to protect against food fraud, the panelists suggested knowing every step of the supply chain, knowing where the ingredient is coming from and how it is getting to the facility. Van Buren and Lombardo suggested studying the processes and logistics in the entire supply chain to look for foul play.
Following the discussion from the panel, audience members were encouraged to ask questions and share their stories of food fraud. One audience member asked about the consumer awareness of food fraud. Van Buren explained that consumers don’t know about this problem.
“I think consumers have no clue about food fraud,” she said. “I think those of us in the food industry, we talk about it, and we understand it a little. It’s not even a thought (for consumers) that someone gave them something that wasn’t what they said it was.”
For companies that engage in food fraud, their reputation, and possibly their businesses are at stake. While food fraud is a daunting issue, the panelists encouraged the audience to educate themselves and continue to dig deep and ask questions of their suppliers.
“Having a vulnerability assessment that is more than just looking at the ingredient but looking at the entire process and the logistics that it takes to get that ingredient is important,” Lombardo said.
The editors at Food Technology magazine, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), have announced their predictions for the hottest food trends for 2022.
While canning is commonplace today, for that generation of food technologists it was a paradigmatic example of the power of science to change food for the better.
In October 2021, the FDA released new voluntary guidance on sodium reduction with the overarching goal of reducing consumption by 12% over the next two-and-a-half years.
What changes have occurred in the way Canadians perceive cannabis since it was legalized there in 2018? How do Canadian and U.S. consumers of cannabis and edibles compare?
It’s a new era for the agribusiness giant, and Leticia Gonçalves, president of global foods, is well equipped to help guide the company’s reinvention as a more consumer-focused, value-added organization.
IFT 2022-2023 President Chris Downs discusses IFT’s response to the White House Conference on Hunger Nutrition and Health.
A reflection on World Food Day by IFT President Chris Downs.
University of Manitoba’s Michael Eskin, the recipient of IFT’s 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award in Honor of Nicolas Appert, talks about 55 years of edible oil research, the development of canola oil, and his side gig as a food science rap artist.
IFT’s Anna Rosales attended the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Here are her key takeaways.
Two IFT members reflect on how resource groups help them promote diversity and inclusion on the job.
Tune in to the IFT FIRST on-demand content channel and hear from experts and innovators who are making big impacts.