FOOD FRAUD: HOW FSMA WILL HOLD THE FOOD INDUSTRY ACCOUNTABLE FOR ECONOMICALLY-MOTIVATED ADULTERATION
What Is Food Fraud?
While adulteration of a food product can be accidental or unintentional, food fraud is the act of knowingly misrepresenting the contents of a food product, and may or may not pose a risk to consumer health. According to the Food Protection and Defense Institute (formerly the National Center for Food Protection and Defense), manufacturers or producers use a number of different methods in order to commit food fraud:
- Dilution – this constitutes a partial replacement of the food product with another (often less-expensive) adulterant. An example could be diluting extra virgin olive oil with other vegetable oils.
- Substitution – this differs from dilution in that the food product is completely replaced with an alternative, but is labelled or sold as another product. For example, labelling farmed salmon as wild salmon constitutes food fraud.
- Artificial Enhancement – this is the addition of an unapproved additive to enhance the qualities of a product. An example of this type of food fraud could be the addition of a dye to spices to enhance their colour.
- Mislabeling – this represents errors in labeling meant to mislead the consumer regarding the contents of the food product. One of the most recent examples of this is the adulteration of grated Parmesan cheese with cellulose and less-expensive cheeses and milk products.
- Origin Masking and Transshipment – this is simply dishonesty in regards to the country of origin for a food product. Food companies may be motivated to fraudulently claim a product was harvested or manufactured in a more desirable geographic location. For example, a honey producer may claim their product was harvested from local bees in order to avoid having to pay steep import duties, despite its true country of origin being a distant country.
- Counterfeit – this is another type of intentional mislabeling in which a company uses a brand name in an effort to trick the consumer into purchasing their product. An example could be the labelling of a generic ketchup brand as Heinz.
- Theft and Resale – if a company acquires stolen goods and subsequently reintroduces them into the marketplace, this is also considered to be a form of food fraud.
- Intentional Distribution of a Contaminated Product – this occurs when a food product is unintentionally adulterated, but is still sold despite the manufacturer’s knowledge of the defect.