We have previously posted a broad definition of food fraud, but in this post we want to explain the various food fraud types in more detail. All businesses that involve food are subject to compliance with the Food Safety Act 1990. Here, we explore what food adulteration is and some other prevalent examples of food fraud within the industry, as well as how St Pauls Barristers can help.
What is food adulteration?
One of the most prevalent examples of food fraud is adulteration. This means to have something fraudulent added to a food product that is not on the label to lower costs or create a false sense of quality.
There are several prolific examples of food adulteration. One of the biggest in the UK was the 2013 horsemeat scandal, wherein some Tesco beef products were found to contain other meats, including pork and horse.
This not only brought religious preference into question (as some groups, including Jewish people and Islamic people, may have decided not to consume pork) but also food safety. Some of the horses that went into the food were racehorses – this could have entered phenylbutazone into the supply chain, a veterinary drug banned in food animals.
What other examples of food fraud are there?
There are many different types of food fraud besides adulteration.
- Misrepresentation: marking a product with false claims about its freshness, origin or quality.
- Substitution: replacing a food product or ingredient of a food product with something similar of a lower standard or quality. Seafood has long been a target of substitution, with a recent study revealing that across 30 countries, 36% of the tested samples were mislabelled. For example, 48% of the king scallops tested were, in fact, Japanese scallops, a cheaper and less-coveted option.
- Illegal Processing: preparing meat and other food products within premises or using techniques that are not approved or regulated. This posed a particular problem within the UK halal sheep industry, with products being sold as ‘halal’ even though they were not slaughtered in accordance with official guidelines.
- Diversion: distributing products outside of their intended market.
- Waste diversion: distributing product earmarked for disposal under the pretence of it being a legitimate product.
- Theft: acquiring food through illegitimate means and selling it on to make a profit. In 2019, packed meat was the number one most stolen item, with cheese not far below it on the list, as these products can retain a high resell value.
- Simulation: a product is created and marketed in a very similar way to a legitimate product, but is not exactly the same.
- Counterfeiting: attempting to sell an illegitimate product that has been copied from or mimics its legitimate counterpart.
Identifying examples of food fraud as a consumer is not easy, but in general, if there is a deal that seems too good to be true, it might just be. When an expensive or rare product is being sold vastly under market value or looks or smells different from what you would expect, it may not have a reputable source.
If your client is being investigated for any of the food fraud types by the Food Standards Agency, get in touch with us at St Pauls Chambers. Our food safety barristers are well-versed in food safety law and have experience with prosecution and defence concerning various food-related accusations.