Two key speakers will address the topic: Darren Davies, head of the Food Standards Agency's (FSA's) National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) and Sterling Crew, chair of the Food Authenticity Network advisory board.
Davies will provide an overview of the NFCU's latest work and will discuss its recently completed strategic assessment and its food fraud control strategy in the light of the changing supply chain landscape.
Crew will focus in the webinar, which is sponsored by Thermo Fisher Scientific, on practical methods for assessing food fraud vulnerability at factory level and how to counter weak points.
In a recent article written by Crew in the Institute of Food Science & Technology's journal, food fraud could embrace up to eight different areas. These could include misleading labelling or factories claiming false certifications, such as audit approvals, for food production.
Eight types of food fraud
• Adulteration - including a foreign substance which is not on the product’s label to lower costs or fake a higher quality
• Substitution - replacing a food or ingredient with another substance that is similar but inferior
• Misrepresentation - marketing or labelling a product to wrongly portray its quality, safety, origin or freshness
• Counterfeiting. A known brand’s name, packaging, recipe or food processing method is copied, and counterfeit food is presented as a legitimate product
• Document fraud - making, using or possessing false documents with the intent to sell or market a fraudulent or substandard product
• Illegal processing - slaughtering or preparing meat and related products in unapproved premises or using unauthorised techniques
• Waste diversion - illegally diverting food, drink or feed meant for disposal, back into the supply chain
Experts agree there is little empirical evidence so far to suggest that food fraud is increasing, despite continued supply chain disruption associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, most believe ongoing ingredient substitution due to the virus's impact, plus further disruption expected once the Brexit transition period ends increases food industry vulnerability to fraud.
In his article, Crew comments: "The disruption caused by the pandemic has resulted in the supply network being policed less vigorously and undergoing reduced scrutiny. Many governments and inspection agencies are telling their auditors to stay home and observe social distancing, thereby creating a more favourable environment for food fraudsters to operate."
He stresses the importance of applying robust management system controls, such as Vulnerability Assessment and Critical Control Points to help mitigate threats. He also highlights the value of analytical testing, but acknowledges this cannot detect all forms of food fraud.