Food fraud is the intentional modification or misrepresenting of food product, be that in substance or origin, for financial gain.
Fighting fraud for the Food sector
In the UK, it is estimated that food fraud costs the local food and drinks industry £11.6bn each year1 through overpayments for lesser ingredients, reputational damage and dishonest trading practices.
There are huge incentives to manipulate the food supply chain given the financial margins in the sector.
A simple substitution of a lower cost/quality ingredient can on a mass scale lead to significant increased profits for a supplier. Employees can be encouraged to turn a blind eye or assist suppliers to deceive purchasers. Organised crime also has influence in the supply chain, seeing the opportunity for illicit gain.
Food fraud can present itself in a number of ways including2:
- Adulteration, where an ingredient of finished product is fraudulent. In the USA it is estimated as much as 10% of food on shelves is adulterated product.3
- Counterfeit, where fake products are represented as genuine items or mislabelled for example, in terms of origin.
- Diversion, where the sale or distribution of legitimate products outside of authorised markets takes place.
- Over-run, where unauthorised excess products are produced to sell to unauthorised markets.
- Theft, legitimate products are stolen and passed off as legitimately sourced in a supply chain.
- Tampering, use of a product, such as meat, intended for consumption by a certain group (pets) but used in food products for another (humans).
Amongst all sectors, it is food where the impact of fraud potentially has the greatest impact. It can lead to unknown substances in food causing fatal or severe allergic reactions, irreversible reputational impact and significant financial losses. It is the sector where prevention is vital because the risks are so high.
Food fraud is growing for a variety of reasons such as the increasing demand for processed food, long / complex and often cross border supply chains and the significant financial potential. Understanding wider fraud risks and using tried and tested preventative measures from outside the sector can help focus prevention inside the food sector.
What makes Tenet different is that we are a specialist compliance, investigations and litigation law firm. We focus on responding to fraud and financial crime compliance for our clients across the UK and overseas. Our experience and sole focus is our expertise of dealing with a range of financial crime and fraud issues and applying that detailed and experienced knowledge to certain sectors, including food.
Our approach has been recognised in our speaking at Food Fraud conferences and commentating in publications such as New Food and Food Science & Technology.
To discover more about the world of financial crime and fraud please see our Fraud Hub.
The Secret Ingredient – Newsletter
The Secret Ingredient is our dedicated food and drink quarterly newsletter. Each publication supports in-house counsel and those from a science background assessing food safety to keep up to date with current and emerging fraud-related risks. Catch up on previous issues below and subscribe here to receive quarterly updates direct to your inbox.
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