Guest Column | October 5, 2017

Food Fraud: How You Can Ensure Product Integrity

Food Fraud: How You Can Ensure Product Integrity

By Greg Sommerville, founder, Global Supplier Verification Consultancy

Most food companies concentrate on the intentional substitution or addition of a substance in a product with verification activities, including testing, organoleptic or other on receipt testing. But, the real challenge is identifying the misrepresentation of products. What can you do to decrease your risks and boost the chances of receiving genuine, certified products?

Food Fraud is a global challenge across the food industry, with the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) estimating it may cost the industry $10 to $15 billion annually. It can occur in any type of food sale — from industrial to retail, from shelf to restaurant, to any uninformed or informed customer or consumer.

Some of the recent, well-known examples of food fraud include melamine into milk-based products to inflate protein values, the horsemeat scandal in Europe with horsemeat being found in 100 percent beef labeled products, olive oil not compliant with chemical or organoleptic parameters, as well as the ongoing issue in restaurants of wrongly identified fish. In all these cases, the fraud was economically motivated, with the goal of obtaining economic gain through the fraudulent, intentional substitution or addition of a substance in a product, or the misrepresentation of the product for the purpose of increasing the value.

As supply chains become increasingly-more globally dispersed — with multiple touch points and large corporations contracting to others, each supplying into multiple sales channels — managing these fraud risks has become ever more challenging. Some companies have lost visibility of their supply chains beyond the one back, and may not even know the original manufacturer of products they are using. These companies are depending on their suppliers’ ability to manage a long line of sub-suppliers, possibly even sub-sub-suppliers — hoping they all have the same quality requirements. Remembering the telephone game — when an initial message is whispered to the first person in line, and so on, until the last player announces the message, usually wrongly — the conclusion has to be that this holds true in the supply chain with any initial quality or safety message.