Karen Everstine, research associate at NCFPD, made the comments in a nine-part webinar series which featured speakers sharing research, case studies and industry guidance on how becoming more proactive in fighting and preventing food fraud.
“Food fraud creates health risks for consumers and it can cause severe economic losses to both industry and regulators,” she said.
“Reducing the risk of food fraud will require innovative and multidisciplinary solutions, as well as increased information sharing among all food safety stakeholders.”
Collaboration across the chain
Food fraud is a global issue and it is important to build collaboration across all players in the chain, including manufacturers, retailers and raw ingredient suppliers to regulators and the consumer, according to the speakers.
Key takeaways from the series included the importance of using forensic accounting to identify potential and actual food fraud and why history repeats itself and the need to shift to a prevention-focused strategy.
Robert Hanner, associate professor, Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph said despite widespread evidence for food fraud, current countermeasures are primarily reactive and fail to address the breadth of the problem.
“Proactive approaches to verify ingredient authenticity involving new technologies and emerging certification programs could enhance existing supply chain traceability frameworks and bring about meaningful change,” he said.
“This appears likely given the evolving regulatory landscape, need for industrial risk mitigation and growing consumer awareness of food fraud."
Supporting partners of the Xtalks eCongress included FoodDrinkEurope, NCFPD, Oceana, SSAFE, The University of Manchester, University of Portsmouth and US Pharmacopeia (USP).
Advances in combative approaches
Jeff Moore, senior scientific liaison, food standards, food chemicals codex at USP, said historically food fraud has been a battle between the science of detection and the science of deception.
“Advances in tools such as vulnerability assessment approaches tailored to food fraud and databases on food fraud reports present a new opportunity for manufacturers and regulators looking to get ahead of the criminals engaging in fraud.“
Other areas identified were emerging policies in the US to address seafood fraud, an industry-driven tool to help companies meet GFSI requirements coming into force in 2016 and how consumers were responding in Europe to the horsemeat scandal and what they want to see happen going forward.
Kimberly Warner, senior scientist at Oceana, said seafood fraud is a widespread problem that benefits from complex global supply chains with little transparency and oversight.
“This type of fraudulent activity inflates prices, masks health risks and hides the origins of certain seafood, while also allowing illegally caught fish to be laundered into the legal marketplace,” she said.
“By increasing transparency and tracking seafood from boat or farm to plate, the U.S. can help ensure that all seafood is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled, while allowing consumers to make more informed seafood buying decisions.”