Food Fraud

 


  Food Fraud


Countries in the world have not created a system that properly inspects foods. Foods having a huge lack of inspection from farm to fork are becoming a secret terror for human and are life-threatening. Food fraud is the misrepresentation of some information about the food to the consumer, and it usually causes health hazards or harms, to protect the economic interests of consumers. Food fraud is used in the act of intentionally altering, misrepresenting, mislabelling of substituting with any food product. Also, it can be observed in the raw material, in an ingredient, in the final product or the food’s packaging. For instance, “the horsemeat scandal” in the European Union is a typical example of food fraud.

 

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) defines food fraud as a collective term encompassing the deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging, labelling, product information or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain that could impact consumer health. Also, GFSI uses seven terminologies to define food fraud like dilution, substitution, concealment, mislabelling, unapproved enhancements (adulteration), counterfeiting, and grey market production. However, I will take attention to the most common types of food fraud.

 

Food adulteration is happened by adding unwanted substances to food items. This way is used to alter the appearance of the food to attracts consumers to the product and to add to its volume to make increased profits. In other words, products, having lower costs and fake higher qualities, are obtained by using adulteration. Tea and coffee are two of the most popular beverages all of the world although two of the most adulterated products. Tamarind, mustard seeds, and chicory are often used instead of coffee seeds. It can cause gastrointestinal problems. Tea leaves are often mixed with coloured leaves, some of which might not even be edible, and also, the green colour is often procured artificially. Moreover, the weight of tea is being increased by using mineral substances, and unfortunately; they cause liver injections.

 

Substitution is used in a common way for food fraud. A less expensive or lower quality alternative is preferred instead of a high-value product. The 2013 horse meat scandal, mentioned before, is a good example of substitution. According to BBC News, it was discovered that horse meat was used in the processing of beef products and then, these beef products, technically horse meat products, were sold in UK supermarket chains.

 

Another common way of food fraud is dilution. Dilution is defined as the cheaper liquid alternative is added to a high-value ingredient, therefore diluting it. Olive oil is one of the examples of the most fraudulent products, and olive oil fraud dates back to ancient times. Ancient Rome established an international trade in olive oil to protect the purity of olive oil. However, in these days, olive oil is diluted with potentially toxic tea tree oil, and some oil labelled "extra-virgin" is diluted with cheaper olive oils or other vegetable oils.

 

Misrepresentation (or mislabelling) is also used in food fraud. A product is labelled to define its quality, origin, freshness, or safety incorrectly because of economic gain. There is a question of to what extent the alcohol content in non-alcoholic beverages is reflected on the labels. It is not compulsory to labelled about alcohol content if the beverage contains alcohol less than 1,2% (12 gram in 1 litre) by volume. However, alcohol (ethanol/ethyl alcohol) is produced naturally because of fermentation in the non-alcoholic fruity, sugary, acidic beverage. This ratio may be more in some carbonated beverages. According to the report of the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK), ten different types of carbonated beverages, sold in Turkey, included 0.20-1,56 gram alcohol per litre. If producers had used propylene glycol instead of ethyl alcohol as a solvent, carbonated beverages would have not containing alcohol. However, producers do not want to use propylene glycol since it is more expensive than ethyl alcohol. Besides, these beverages are not being labelled against the possibility of including alcohol.

 

The last most popular type of food fraud is counterfeiting. Products or ingredients are produced as replicas of authentic products illegally. According to Abel and Mascarenh, counterfeit foods jeopardize health and safety and ultimately cost consumers a great deal of money.  Moreover, counterfeiting can severely damage trust and confidence in brands. 385,000 kg of hard cheese were sold in Canada. They are labelled as “Made in Italy”; however, they were not. According to O’Toole’s report, at least 21 people died after drinking counterfeit raki. The counterfeit batch is reported to have contained up to 200 times the permitted amount of methyl alcohol.

 

To sum up, food fraud is an important hazard in terms of economic, environmental, and socio-political around the world. Melamine addition in dairy products in China was concluded hundreds of thousands of illnesses and at least 6 infant deaths. In Spain, industrial-grade rapeseed oil was sold as olive oil, and it caused 20,000 illnesses and at least 300 deaths. Unfortunately, these types of examples are increasing day by day. The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed of the European Commission studied food fraud reports in the 2008-2013 period. This study includes 201 reports, and these reports are mostly about (1) fish and fish products, (2) meat and edible offal, (3) nut, nut products, and seeds, (4) milk and milk products, and (5) honey and royal jelly. A producer company can prevent food fraud in six steps; (1) communicating the dangers of food fraud to its staff, (2) remaining watchful and check goods, (3) knowing its suppliers, (4) making an anti-fraud culture, (5) reporting concerns or suspicions about food crime, and (6) checking food and drink purchases.

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CONTENT: Miray ERTÜRK

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References:

 

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