The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) will include requirements specific to food fraud mitigation in its guidance document to be released in 2016.
The GFSI Board said it believed mitigation of food fraud is an integral part of a company's food safety management system, as it made the decision to include the requirements in the next full revision of the GFSI Guidance Document seventh edition in early 2016.
GFSI requirements specify that companies perform food fraud vulnerability assessments and implement a Food Fraud vulnerability control plan to mitigate identified vulnerabilities.
The board will support Safe Supply of Affordable Food Everywhere (SSAFE) which is developing guidelines for companies on ‘how’ to assess and control food fraud vulnerabilities within their organisations and supply chains.
It is hoped these will be available before the release of the version seven guidance so that companies and scheme owners can prepare their organisations before the requirements are effective.
A Food Fraud Think Tank, supported by GFSI, investigated and recommended how companies could strengthen their food safety management system to protect consumers from the potential harm caused by food fraud practices.
It recommended a ‘food fraud vulnerability assessment’ in which information is collected along the supply chain (raw materials, ingredients, products, packaging) and evaluated to identify and prioritise significant vulnerabilities for food fraud.
It also proposes appropriate control measures should be put in place to reduce the risk from these vulnerabilities.
These can include a monitoring strategy, a testing strategy, origin verification, specification management, supplier audits and anti-counterfeit technologies.
Think tank members
Food Fraud Think Tank members included Eurofins and Michigan State University’s Food Fraud Initiative, an interdisciplinary, education and outreach organization.
Manufacturers and retailers perspectives were represented by Danone, Walmart and Royal Ahold.
The GFSI Board of Directors asked the GFSI Guidance Document Working Group to work with the Food Fraud Think Tank to draft wording for food fraud mitigation measures last year.
Food fraud, including economically motivated adulteration, is of growing concern, said the group.
“It is deception of consumers using food products, ingredients and packaging for economic gain and includes substitution, unapproved enhancements, misbranding, counterfeiting, stolen foods or others.
“Unlike food defence, which protects against tampering with intent to harm, the consumers’ health risk of food fraud often occurs through negligence or lack of knowledge on the fraudsters’ part and can be more dangerous than traditional food safety risks because the contaminants are unconventional.”
The GFSI Board said it recognised that the driver of a food fraud incident might be economic gain, but if a public health threat arises from the effects of an adulterated product, it will lead to a food safety incident.
Mitigating food fraud and the potential harm these incidents can bring to public health, requires a different perspective and skill-set than food safety or food defence, because socio-economic issues and food fraud history are not included in the traditional risk assessments, said the GFSI.
Vulnerabilities can occur outside the traditional manufacturing, processing, or distribution systems of a company.
Cenk Gurol, GFSI Board chair and vice president, food safety initiative, AEON Co. said: “Food fraud must be regarded as being a significant risk to human health, hence the involvement of the GFSI to facilitate with other industry bodies an agreed approach to mitigate this risk.
“GFSI regards the issue of food fraud as increasingly important and therefore has taken the initial steps to include criteria for its mitigation within the future requirements for GFSI recognised schemes”.