Coronavirus: New concerns raised over food fraud in global supply chains

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Concerns are being raised about food fraud
Concerns are being raised about food fraud

Related tags: Fraud

Concerns have been raised about the impact of the coronavirus on food fraud across the supply chain.

Food Standards Scotland has urged businesses to be vigilant on food crime during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Meanwhile, in a webinar produced by Foodchain ID, concern was raised about the lack of inspections across the globe, which could lead to increased food fraud. 

The Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU) said it was aware that COVID-19 circumstances had created a factor or motivation for food crime. 

The SFCIU said it was working with partners including industry, Scottish local authorities, Police Scotland, the Food Standards Agency and organisations such as the Food Industry Intelligence Network and the Food Authenticity Network on intelligence-led initiatives to continue protecting public health. 

Small Minority

Ron McNaughton, head of the SFCIU, said: “The vast majority of Scotland’s food and drink industry is legitimate and has adapted superbly to the challenges presented by the current epidemic, but unfortunately there is a small minority using the pandemic to commit fraud, with the potential to impact business reputation and public health.”

Selvarani Elahi, executive director of the Food Authenticity Network, said that recent reports had suggested the potential for increased food fraud in global supply chains due to the impact of COVID-19. 

“This is why we created a dedicated COVID-19 Resource Base on the Food Authenticity Network that pulls together global information to help businesses combat food fraud,” ​Elahi said.

“We link to many resources, including the Institute of Food Science and Technology’s COVID-19 Knowledge Hub, which consolidates broader advice, practical guidance and links to resources to support individuals, smaller food businesses and larger food operations.”


Meanwhile, in a recent webinar with Foodchain ID​, entitled Fighting Food Fraud: Operational Strategies to Mitigate Hazards in Your Supply Chain,​ concern was raised about the impact of the coronavirus on inspections and enforcement of regulation. 

Dr Karen Everstine, senior manager, scientific affairs at global systems solution provider Decernis, part of Foodchain ID, said: “Regulatory and even auditing activity has been affected by this. 

 “We are in an interesting time right now as regulatory activity around the world has been affected by the virus. 

“But there has also been a general acknowledgement that many of the risk factors for food fraud are increased right now.”  

She highlighted that milk and dairy products were prone to fraud, and certain commodities were facing issues due to the fact that ports of destination or origin were shut down.

Gary Smith, vice president of food safety at FoodChain ID, said: “A lot of inspection agencies are telling their inspectors to stay home and social distance, so we may not be getting as much scrutiny around the world that we probably should at this vulnerable time.”


Advice from Food Standards Scotland

  • Carry out due diligence – map your supply chain and look out for any ‘choking’ points presenting an opportunity for corners to be cut, or weaknesses where systems/process are under increased pressure or have reduced resources
  • Get to know your supplier(s) – particularly if you are facing changes, such as a new supplier
  • Trace your products from source right the way through to consumer – to have confidence in the authenticity of the end-product
  • Report food crime –share any concerns to the free and anonymous hotline run in partnership with Crimestoppers on 0800 028 7926 

Food Standards Scotland has a joint guide, developed with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Food Standards Agency on improving fraud resilience for food and drink business

Related topics: Food Safety

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