Spink’s Snippet – Food (Fraud) for Thought

Welcome! This new blog series[1] reviews key topics related to food fraud prevention. The first blog explores the definition of food fraud terms and concepts.


When considering any new subject, the most important starting point is to define the terms and the scope.

  • 2011: Food fraud was first defined in a scholarly journal article in 2011 (Spink and Moyer, 2011).
  • 2014: The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), foundation for most of the world’s food safety management system standards, provided a similar key definition and scope.
  • 2018: The International Standards Organization (ISO) published a definition of:
    • product fraud: “wrongful or criminal deception that utilizes material goods for financial or personal gain.” (ISO 22300:2018 updated from ISO 12931:2012)
  • 2018: ISO 22000 Food Safety Management added a note that food fraud was to be considered as a root cause of food hazards.
  • 2019: Spink et al conducted an International Survey of Food Fraud and Related Terminology                                                   
  • 2023: The Food Authenticity Network published a review of global definitions of food fraud                                        
  • Active: CEN and Codex Alimentarius have working groups that are actively developing their definitions of food fraud and related terms.

The simple definition is:

Food fraud is “intentional deception for economic gain using food”.

The scope of product fraud and food fraud is intentionally broad in order to cover all types of fraud.

Watch out for the next blog, which will review types of food fraud…...

If you have any questions on this blog, we’d love to hear from you in the comments box below.


About the author

John W Spink, Ph.D., is the Director and Lead Instructor for the Food Fraud Prevention Academy. Also, he is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management (SCM) in the College of Business at Michigan State University (MSU). His food fraud prevention research focuses on policy and strategy to understand and prevent these supply chain disruptions and implement procurement best practices. He is widely published in leading academic journals and has helped lead national and global regulatory and standards activity. More recently, his teaching and research have expanded to supply chain disruption management and procurement best practices. He is also on the Advisory Board of the Food Authenticity Network. For more information please visit: www.FoodFraudPrevention.com

[1] Collaboration between Dr John Spink of Michigan State University and the Food Authenticity Network (FAN)


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  • Can I make a plea, Anders Nilsson , for example (A) to be included within scope?  If done knowingly, this deliberately compromises the safety of the food product (ineffective hygiene, in the case of the disinfectant, or unassessed chemical residues, in the case of the pesticide).  The producer would certainly lose any 3rd-party certification if it were uncovered, so it is already within certification scope.  Counterfeit disinfectants were high on the fraud watch-list during Covid.

    At the end of the day, any type of fraud is already covered by general law.  There is no international definition of #constructionfraud, #clothingfraud, or #motorcarfraud.  Maybe we are being overly insular in trying to make food a special case?

  • Thank you Jon W Spink for opening the blog. I completely agree with the comments that the 3 scenarios from John Points should not be classified as food fraud. However, if one becomes aware of any of these inaccuracies, this may be of interest in food adulteration analyses. Experience shows that companies that deliberately break laws and regulations can also engage in various forms of food fraud.
    Anders Nilsson PhD, ANFC AB

  • Thank you, John w Spink.  I will start off with a question of my own.  Should fraud fall into the "Food Fraud" definition (and, thus, within scope of GFSI certification systems) if it "uses food" but does not necessarily impact the final product?  For example, 3 scenarios:

    A)  Fraudulent inputs.  A strawberry grower knowingly buys a counterfeit pesticide, or a dairy factory knowingly buys a counterfeit cleaning chemical.

    B) A food manufacturer fiddles their employment records to disguise the fact they are paying below legal minimum wage

    C) Rather than write off date-expired ingredient stock a food manufacturer fakes arson and claims on insurance.

    I would be interested in FAN members' views.  Mine would be A-Yes, B&C-No, but I find it difficult to articulate why.

    • Thank you John S and John P.

      Mine are No, No & No! On the basis they would be regulated by laws other than food law?

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