Think like a criminal to tackle food fraud

Industry and regulators can win the fight against food fraud and significantly reduce consumer vulnerability by working together. This will be the key message from an engaging and interactive presentation at the Fi Conference, which takes inspiration from two successful UK examples.

Jon Poole and Bertrand Emond

The session, organised and presented by Bertrand Emond, Food Safety Culture Excellence Lead at Campden BRI in the UK and Membership Secretary of fiin (food industry intelligence network), UK and Jon Poole, Chief Executive, Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST), UK, will focus on the lessons that can be learned from the Food Fortress initiative and the food industry intelligence network (fiin).

Founded in 2015 by retailers, manufacturers and food service companies, fiin’s objective is to share intelligence on food authenticity and traceability. It was created in response to an ‘Elliott report’ recommendation for industry to collect, collate, analyse and disseminate information protect consumer interests. Food Fortress is a collaboration of businesses committed to improving the safety and security of the food chain. 

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“We will challenge the audience to think of ways they can contribute to the fight against crime and what they are going to do differently when they get back to their business,” adds Emond.

Counting the cost
Certainly, food fraud is an issue that can no longer be ignored. The crime is estimated to cost the global food industry over US$40 billion every year, and this is just the economic perspective.  “Food fraud affects everybody in the food supply chain,” says Emond. “While food fraud is not new, globalisation and complex supply chains are creating huge opportunities for fraudsters and criminals on a big scale.”

Emond points out that serious public health risks – including deaths – and damage to brand reputation and consumer confidence also need to be factored in. “All stakeholders need to consider their vulnerability and work together to have a chance to win the fight,” he says.  “We cannot do this alone. Our session will prove that this can be done, and will hopefully inspire others to unite and take action.”

Interactive approaches
Poole and Emond plan to showcase examples of innovative data and intelligence sharing across industry sectors and in cooperation with regulators. “We will be having some fun during the introduction to our session because we will be asking the audience to ‘think like a criminal,’” says Poole. “But there is also a serious message behind this. Those involved in food fraud will find any possible way to make money and therefore, only by being one step ahead of their thinking can the food industry prevent fraud from occurring. “  

Participants will be asked to come up with ways of making money through food crime in a selection of scenarios involving the seven classic techniques: theft; unlawful processing; waste diversion; adulteration; substitution; misrepresentation and false documentation.

Evolving roles
Risk assessment and data analytics that focus on authenticity and traceability will be discussed, and the role of food scientists and technologists in collecting and interpreting robust data highlighted. Both Poole and Emond note that these technical roles continue to evolve as science and technology develops.

“New forms of detection, monitoring and surveillance are constantly being developed as methods of food fraud become ever more sophisticated,” says Poole. “Where, in the past, those working in food technical roles were primarily focusing on matters around food quality and safety, they are now also having to consider the integrity of their food supply chain and the potential for food fraud.”

As well as having to understand and deal with issues around chemical, physical and microbiological contamination, there is also now an increasing need to be able to take advantage of new and sophisticated systems-based solutions to collect and interpret data. “In the past ‘continuing professional development’ was about keeping abreast of the latest technologies – now it also needs to encompass keeping abreast of the latest food fraud techniques and how to prevent them,” adds Poole.

Don’t miss Bertrand Emond and Jon Poole’s interactive presentation ‘Winning the fight against food fraud’ on 5 December at the Expo FoodTec Hub.