food fraud (108)

JRC's December 2020 Food Fraud Summary Published


The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has published its December 2020 Food Fraud Monthly Summary reporting food fraud incidents and investigations from around the world. Thanks again to our Member Bruno Séchet for creating this  infographic and allowing us to share it with the rest of the Network

Read the December 2020 Summary here












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8388578865?profile=RESIZE_710x14 arrested in Spain and investigations underway in France.

The Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil), supported by the French Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale) and Europol have dismantled an organised crime group involved in the production, distribution and sale of alleged organic pistachios which did not meet required ecological standards. 

The operation began in 2019, with various reports of ecological certifications being misused on pistachios that did not adhere to set agricultural standards. The Spanish Civil Guard detected a mix of organic and non-organic pistachio nuts that contained pesticides (including glyphosate and chlorate), illegal under requisites imposed by the Spanish agricultural sector. 

The investigation uncovered that the illegal pesticides were being used to better the quality and quantity of the harvests and increase the monetary value of the production. Marketed as organic the nuts were sold for up to 80% over the retail price of non-organic pistachios. The nuts from the main Spanish distributor were also being sold in France under false organic certifications. 

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The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are being felt across the world and it is reasonable to expect that they have the potential to impact on the vulnerability of the global food supply chain to food fraud. Recent reports suggest the potential for increased food fraud in global food supply chains due to the impact of COVID-19.

The Food Authenticity Network (FAN) and Mérieux Nutrisciences have collaborated to undertake a detailed assessment of the data to establish whether food fraud incidents are indeed increasing.

The analysis conducted identified a small increase in official food fraud alerts since the onset of the pandemic (19 more official reports) and a more significant increase in the number of media reports (81 more media reports) in January to June 2020 compared to the same period in 2019).

It is not clear how significant the observed increases are considering the availability of a relatively small number of global official food fraud alerts and the variability in the type of data available from different countries and sources, making it difficult to undertake statistical comparisons.

Following extraordinary meetings of its Advisory Board in May and July 2020, FAN concluded that the conditions created by the pandemic have increased food fraud vulnerability but that there was insufficient evidence of ‘dramatic’ increases in specific COVID-19-related food fraud incidents. This study supports that conclusion. However, it is likely that the true impact of COVID-19 on the incidence of global food fraud will not be known until full resumption of regulatory surveillance world-wide and at this point, it is possible that more evidence concerning pandemic-related factors may emerge.

In the meantime, FAN recommends that due to the heightened vulnerability of food to fraud, the food industry be extra vigilant and use the available existing best practice authenticity control measures and tools (COVID-19 Resource Base) to mitigate any potential emerging threats.

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Spanish authorities have uncovered a large criminal network producing and distributing counterfeit whisky. The authorities seized items imported from China, which included nearly 300,000 whisky bottles, 171,200 counterfeit tax stamps, 18,400 capsules and more than 27,000 cardboard boxes with the logo of a well-known brand. The first base of the operation was in Ciudad Real, and was run by an Asian businessman who imported from Asia fake tax stamps, counterfeit glass bottles, labels and caps from a well-known brand. The alcoholic mixture was prepared and bottled in another part of the operation in La Rioja. The bottles were sent back to Ciudad Real where the labels and seals were added ready for distribution. The fourteen people arrested are now awaiting trial in La Rioja.

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The Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission has published its Monthly Food Fraud Summary for November 2020.

Thanks again to our Member Bruno Séchet for creating this fantastic infographic and allowing us to share with the rest of the Network 😁.

Access JRC Monthly Food Fraud Reports

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Food Fraud: A Global Threat With Public Health and Economic Consequences serves as a practical resource on the topic of food fraud prevention and compliance with regulatory and industry standards.

It includes a brief overview of the history of food fraud, current challenges, and vulnerabilities faced by the food industry, and requirements for compliance with regulatory and industry standards on mitigating vulnerability to food fraud, with a focus on the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Benchmarking Requirements.

The book also provides individual chapters dedicated to specific commodities or sectors of the food industry known to be affected by fraud, with a focus on specific vulnerabilities to fraud, the main types of fraud committed, analytical methods for detection, and strategies for mitigation.

The book provides an overview of food fraud mitigation strategies applicable to the food industry and guidance on how to start the process of mitigating the vulnerability to food fraud. The intended audience for this book includes food industry members, food safety and quality assurance practitioners, food science researchers and professors, students, and members of regulatory agencies.

Food Authenticity Network Members are eligible for a 30% discount by using the code ATR30 at

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FSSAI found a consistent increase in cases of non-compliance across the country from previous years. The National Accreditation Board for Testing & Calibration Laboratories tested 1,06,459 food samples during 2018-19, and found 30,415 samples non-conforming, of which 3900 samples were declared unsafe, 16,870 were sub-substandard, and the rest were mislabelled. As a result the Authority prosecuted 2813 criminal and 18550 civil cases resulting in 701 criminal convictions and 12734 fines.

Read the article or the full FSSAI Annual 2018-19 report in English (from page182)

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This interesting overview of methods to detect adulteration of different spices is presented in an easy understable way. There is an interview with a Belgian spice trader outlining the scale of the problem. The various authenticity methods used to detect spice adulteration are described by scientists at the European Commission's Joint  Research Centre - Fraud Detection and Prevention Unit in Geel, Belgium.

Read the article and watch the video below:

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Consumer Survey Reveals Concern About Food Fraud


Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC)  conducted a survey  which questioned over 1,750 consumers in the US, UK and China. The effect of Covid-19 was a major concern with consumers, and  73% of respondents believe that the pandemic will impact on the viability of the global supply chain. Moreover, 71% think it will affect global access to food.  Other issues of concern were food safety and food fraud, with 60% of respondents said they are worried about keeping food safe from toxins and bacteria, and 58% revealed they are concerned about preventing food fraud.    

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Adulteration of the Herbs Is Still Occurring

In 2015, IGFS (Institute for Global Food Securty) at Queens University Belfast in cooperation with the Consumer Organisation Which? conducted a survey of oregano, which found 25% of the samples tested were adulterated. This year, a small follow-up survey was carried out on 20 samples of oregano, and only one sample was found to be adulterated, which clearly shows a huge improvement from the earlier 2015 survey.

In parallel with the survey on oregano, in August and September this year, a snapshot survey of the herb sage was undertaken, and 19 samples bought from major online retailers; all the well-known UK supermarkets; and smaller, independent shops such as ethnic grocery stores. In this survey, just over 25 percent of all the samples tested were adulterated. The level of bulking out of the sage samples with non-food materials such as olive leaves and other tree leaves, ranged from 29% to a staggering 58%. However, none of the brands sold by the big UK supermarket chains was found to be fraudulent, and only some sage sold by online retailers and smaller independents was found to have been adulterated. 

Read the article or IGFS's News Release

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The Food Standards Agency's National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) has received two reports of organised meat theft which may have food safety consequences for consumers. One report from a major retailer was about the theft of meat and poultry items by a driver network. The theft is believed to have taken place over a considerable time period, and there is concern that the stolen products may have entered the human food chain via a restaurant. As the stolen meat may have spent some time outside the cold cgain, it may have posed a risk to human health.

The second report concerns an organised group obtaining meat fraudulently from meat processors and traders, where a woman placed orders for meat products over the phone, and paid for them using several credit cards, which later turned out be stolen outside the UK. The woman has then organised for a taxi to transport the meat to fictional addresses in London and Southend-On-Sea, again paying for the taxi by means of a credit card. The taxi was later diverted to another address in Southend and, in one case, the meat was loaded into a van. Subsequently, both the meat purveyor and the taxi firms were notified that the payments made on the credit cards were fraudulent, meaning they were required to refund the transactions.

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Milk and milk products play a vital role in diets around the globe. Due to their nutritional benefits there has been an increase in production and consumption over the past thirty years. For this growth to continue the safety and authenticity of dairy products needs to be maintained which is a huge area of concern. Throughout the process, from farm to processor, different sources of contamination (biological, chemical or physical) may occur either accidently or intentionally. Through online resources (the EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and HorizonScan) safety and fraud data were collected from the past five years relating to milk and milk products. Cheese notifications were most frequently reported for both safety alerts (pathogenic micro-organisms) and fraud incidences (fraudulent documentation). Alongside the significant number of biological contaminations identified, chemical, physical and inadequate controls (in particular; foreign bodies, allergens, industrial contaminants and mycotoxins) were also found. Although the number of incidents were significantly smaller, these contaminants can still pose a significant risk to human health depending on their toxicity and exposure. Grey literature provided a summary of contamination and fraud issues from around the globe and shows its potential to be used alongside database resources for a holistic overview. In ensuring the integrity of milk during ever changing global factors (climate change, competition between food and feed and global pandemics) it is vital that safety and authenticity issues are continually monitored by industry, researchers and governing bodies.

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8053818657?profile=RESIZE_400x FSAI's annual report covers enforcement, inspections, sampling, recalls, Brexit, and food fraud. On its 2019 food fraud activities, the RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) dealt with 3,997 events, of these just 34 were notified by Ireland. Some 21 notifications were about food which had originated in Ireland, and 13 were related to foods in distribution in the country. During 2019, authorised officers from the FSAI, other state regulatory authorities, and official agencies conducted 52 investigations where breaches of food law and food fraud were suspected. Ireland published four cases relating to alcohol, beef, and fish in the European Commission’s Administrative Assistance and Cooperation/Food Fraud Network database. Eleven EU AAC FFN notifications were processed. Returns submitted by Ireland to Europol as part of Operation Opson included seizures of food of animal origin such as meat and dairy, and alcohol.

Read the article or FSAI's 2019 Annual Report

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Food Standards Scotland’s Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU) have highlighted four sectors as priorities, which have been targeted and continue to be targeted by criminals committing food fraud:-

- Red meat: fraudulently tagged livestock, stolen livestock, illegal slaughter and substitution of product, false declaration of origin or durability date.

- Fish: substitution by cheaper species or lower quality fish, misdescription of origin especially for salmon, import of illegally treated tuna, fraudulent use of official certification in UK, and impact of Brexit on Scottish supply chain.

- Shellfish: illegally harvested shellfish, misrepresentation of quality and origin of shellfish, falsification of registration and landing documents, and   use of modern slavery and exploitation for harvesting shellfish.

- Alcoholic drinks: counterfeit branded spirits and wine, import or smuggling of fake vodka, production of illicit alcohol, and import and use of material and equipment to produce imitation alcohol products.

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8028918875?profile=RESIZE_400xThe European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) publishes a monthly Food Fraud Summary summarising food fraud incidents and investigations from around the world. The September 2020 Summary has just been published. In particular, a large scale horse and donkey meat fraud has been investigated in Colombia, where horses and donkeys, often sick animals, were slaughtered and adulterated with chemicals, and sold as beef for school meals. The fraud took place between May 2018 and September 2019, and involved 2-2.5 tonnes of meat each week.

Read the monthly summary here

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 This paper reports the results of an international cooperative research project to address potential food fraud issues related to rice supplies in China, India, Vietnam and Ghana, and as rice fraud manifests differently in each country, tailored solutions were required. A portable NIR (Near Infra-Red) instrument with chemometrics calibrated to the authentic rice, was used as a fingerprint screening method. Non-conforming or suspicious samples were analysed in a second stage (confirmatory test) using laboratory-based gas chromatograph-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) fingerprinting methods, which were developed to differentiate between: high value Basmati rice varieties and their potential adulterants; six Geographic Indicated protected rice varieties from specific regions of China; various qualities of rice in Ghana and Vietnam; as well locally produced and imported rice in Ghana. In addition, an inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICPMS) method was developed to support the Chinese rice varieties methods, as well as a liquid chromatography quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC-QTOFMS) method for quality differentiation in Vietnam. This two stage approach permits a much higher level of on-site screening of rice samples followed by the laboratory corroborating mass spectrometry analysis to assist decision making in accepting rice supplies. 

Read the abstract here

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Facing up to food fraud in a pandemic



The global disruption caused by COVID‐19 has, and will continue to have, a generic impact on the likelihood of many food fraud risks. It is important that food businesses keep their vulnerability assessments and risk management plans under continual review in light of ‘COVID‐effects’ to assess whether they apply to their own supply chain. These effects are layered onto existing macro‐economic trends, such as the increase in plant‐based foods, direct online sales and supply shortages due to conflict or climatic events.

In this article, John Points and Louise Manning, both members of the IFST's COVID‐19 Advisory Group, assess the evidence for an increase in food fraud as a result of the COVID‐19 pandemic and conclude that:

It is very difficult to obtain objective evidence of the incidence of food fraud in a specific sector, or to determine objective trends. Evidence based on reported incidence is fraught with caveats and needs to be interpreted with care. These caveats notwithstanding, there is no evidence within the Horizonscan database that COVID‐19 has yet led to an increase in food fraud.
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This article in New Food Magazine discusses how Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) and Whole Gene Sequencing (WGS) can assist in detecting and identifying contamination, and also playing an important role in assuring traceability of food products when combined with blockchain along the supply chain. Technology improvements have meant that NGS and WGS have high throughputs at much lower cost than before, and NGS machine can now be used for WGS as well.

The genomic information derived by these techniques on pathogenic bacterial contamination when combined with data such as the date and place of findings, can help track down the exact sources of contamination and therefore avoid large scale recalls of food products. The role of NGS in obtaining DNA traceability combined with blockchain permits products all the way along the supply chain to be traced back to their original raw materials whether that be plants or animals. 

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7608193465?profile=RESIZE_710xOfficers in China have siezed more than two tonnes of lemons for trademark violations. The lemons had counterfeit labelling which claimed the fruits were produced by fruit brand Utifrutti. Their shipping containers also bore the company's logo.

This marks the second seizure of counterfeit lemons claiming to be Unifrutti products since April.

Read the full story on Securing Industry here.

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