Navigating food fraud: a decade on from the Horsemeat Scandal

Food fraud can present serious food safety and reputational impacts and unscrupulous organisations are finding sophisticated ways of duping companies and consumers. Richard Leathers, global quality lead at Campden BRI, looks at how businesses can use supply chain resilience to successfully navigate threats such as food fraud.

From geopolitical events and pandemics to natural disasters, cybercrime and regulatory changes, there are a huge number of challenges that affect the food and drink industry. These challenges cause cost and availability issues, making food fraud become an increasingly pressing concern.

Food fraud can lead to food safety issues, poor product quality and damaged brand reputations. When things go seriously wrong, such as the infamous Horsemeat Scandal that erupted a decade ago, it can often be that the industry was not prepared to effectively identify or address the potential for food fraud. No matter the nature of food fraud threats and other supply chain challenges, there are resilience strategies that can be adopted to help businesses navigate and effectively react.

Food fraud costs the global food and drink industry approximately €30bn every year. Additionally, trade in counterfeit and pirated goods has risen steadily over the last few years, now standing at 3.3% of global trade. In 2022 alone, the number of suspicions of food fraud reported by the Food Fraud Network was approximately 600. The number of cases of adulteration have increased globally by 30%, and 47% for counterfeit incidents, since 2020.

The issue is being compounded by climate change and global warming. Extreme weather events are becoming more common, with the number of climate-related disasters tripling in the last 30 years. Wildfires, floods and droughts have a significant adverse effect on crop yields, causing availability issues. Rising costs from inflation also contribute as a driver of potential food fraud. A minority of unscrupulous suppliers may resort to adulteration and other malpractices to overcome these cost and availability pressures for fear of business loss, or to simply increase profits for financial gain.

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