Market intelligence needed to avoid next food scandal

By Rick Pendrous and Laurence Gibbons

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food fraud Food Food safety Food standards agency

Widespread use of DNA testing for horsemeat contamination would be a waste of money, delegates were told at a recent food fraud conference
Widespread use of DNA testing for horsemeat contamination would be a waste of money, delegates were told at a recent food fraud conference
Manufacturers need to use market intelligence and horizon scanning tools to protect themselves against the next food scandal following the horsemeat contamination incidents this year, experts have argued.

Widespread use of DNA testing for horsemeat contamination would be a waste of money as the next food fraud incident was likely to be in a completely different area, delegates to a conference on Combating food fraud, organised by brand protection body FoodChain Europe, were told last week (May 21).

This view was supported by speakers at Leatherhead Food Research’s (LFR’s) Food safety day, who spoke about the need to use “temptation analysis”​ or “threat assessment” ​techniques to identify likely areas of potential fraudulent activity or malicious attack.

LFR has just joined forces with the York-based Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) to launch a news database service called Horizon Scan. This aims to help companies identify the latest food safety and food fraud incidents by flagging up product recalls around the globe. It will help them identify where their own businesses might be most at risk.

“It is a really powerful tool that can be used in a predictive way,”​ claimed LFR chief executive Professor Paul Berryman.

Consumer fears

While the DNA testing used to detect horsemeat contamination probably helped to allay consumer fears, it wasn’t the right approach to use to pick up the next incidents of food fraud, delegates at the Combating food fraud conference heard.

“All the efforts to do tests on DNA sampling for horse is quite frankly a waste of money,”​ said Mitch Weinberg, president and ceo of US food fraud protection, intelligence and supply chain company Inscatech. “The next substitution in meat will not be horsemeat.”

It was a view support by Su Dakin, the British Frozen Food Federation’s technical and regulatory manager. Dakin argued that while selective food sampling might be an appropriate approach to check for food safety, it wasn’t for fraud, where the cost was disproportionate to the risk involved.

“The current level of positive release testing on every batch is unsustainable in terms of cost; it’s disproportionate to the risks and it is unlikely to pick up the next issue,”​ Dakin remarked.

Food fraud risk assessments

She instead encouraged businesses to carry out food fraud risk assessments to the same level that they would approach their hazard analysis critical control points (HACCP) assessments.

“Systems are currently based around safety; they need to be centred more on risk,”​ Dakin argued. “In June the Food Standards Agency will report on testing that has been done by the food industry in the past three months.”

However, she suggested that the industry needed to learn lessons from how the horsemeat scandal had been handled. “Food businesses need to be equipped with the information on how to defend themselves from food fraud,”​ she said.

Dakin said the length and complexity of food supply chains meant they provided an ideal opportunity for fraudsters to adulterate ingredients for profit. She called on food businesses to review their present supply chains – particularly for high value ingredients – and be aware of countries, such as China and India, with a poor record of food safety.

“The food industry is very attractive to food fraudsters,”​ said Dakin. “Fraudsters want to extract the most possible for economic gain. This is a threat we cannot ignore.”

Kathryn Gilbertson, a director at Greenwoods Solicitors, said that rather than trying to predict “unknown unknowns”​ firms should concentrate on the immediate high level risks facing their businesses.

Related news

Show more

Related suppliers

Follow us

Featured Jobs

View more


Food Manufacture Podcast

Listen to the Food Manufacture podcast