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Food fraud is the intentional breach of the food law of products in which a quality or quantity is declared inferior or different from the real, for profit, so that it infringes on Intellectual Property Rights and may suppose a major food safety problem.

Typically, frauds are usually grouped into two broad categories in which damages are usually to:

  • Ingredients: by the addiction, alteration, substitution or deliberate falsification of some ingredient, in order to reduce production costs.
  • Labeling: for false, misleading or ambiguous statements related to ingredients, processes, alleged benefits or origin.

Due to numerous cases, Europol and Interpol joined together in 2011 and launched “Operation OPSON VI”, in order to shut down all Criminal Organizations involved in counterfeit and/or substandard food and beverages. There are currently 61 countries, from which 21 are from the European Union, participating in the Operation. Each implemented a national operational phase, involving customs, police, national food regulatory bodies and partners from the private sector.

This Operation has resulted in the seizure of 9.800 tones, over 26.4 million liters, and 13 million items worth an estimated 230 million euros. They’ve detected frauds in all sorts of products, from daily water, to luxury goods such as caviar. Here are some of the cases:

  • Germany: authorities detected undeclared peanuts, cashew nuts and almonds in imported hazelnut products. When checked 1.300 kg of roasted chopped hazelnuts, 8% of admixed peanuts were detected. In another 500 kg of hazelnut paste, up to 45% of mixed cashew nuts were detected. And in another hazelnut paste, 27% of admixed almonds have been determined. Because these products were not labeled regarding the content of allergenic substances, it could result in a potential health risk for allergy sufferers; therefore the product was immediately withdrawn from the market.
  • Spain: the authorities discovered a meat company that specified a certain proportion of beef in the labeling of its meatballs and hamburgers, when in fact they had a high percentage of pork, bread supplements and traces of soybeans not mentioned, and less than 27% of cow. The case concluded in 14 detainees.
  • Italy: an Organized Crime Group was producing and distributing fake wine, sold as famous and protected red wine (as in Protected Geographical Indication of Origin). Pure alcohol was added to low quality wine used to increase the alcohol concentration. Labels, including fake official labels of protected geographical indications were placed on the bottles at the final stage of production. Authorities seized the premises and concluded with 3 detainees.
  • Portugal: authorities raided a factory in the area of Porto, and ended up discovering fish manufacturing without the application of safety rules. Despite the fact that this plant had its license already withdrawn, they kept illicit activities consisting in repacking almost expired sardines in tomato sauce, regardless of traceability and hygienic rules. The business has been closed immediately after the action day.

Some of the advantages for companies to implement a food fraud prevention plan are:

  • Increase consumer and customer confidence
  • Legal compliance
  • Protection and revaluation of the brand
  • Mitigation plan focusing on vulnerabilities
  • Flexibility, to adapt to any organization and modification to processes

At AGROLAB, we put ourselves at your disposal to carry out controls on food products and to assist you in the regulatory or technical issues that may arise on these issues.