Consumer fraud within the meat industry is something that rarely makes the news. The last major scandal was back in 2013, where consumers in Europe discovered that had been sold horsemeat instead of beef without their knowledge.
Currently, very few companies are prosecuted for food fraud, which is used as a tactic to lower costs or boost supplies by substituting premium products with a cheaper alternative. This are often mislabelled to mislead consumers.
However, in the UK, the chief of the National Food Crime Unit recently said that he wants to introduce criminal prosecutions for firms that commit this type of fraud. The National Food Crime Unit carries out investigations for the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Chief Darren Davis recently said in an interview: “This is crime. We will be working with colleagues in different law enforcement sectors and local authorities initially to raid business premises and other locations where they are engaging in the most serious types of food crime.”
“Clearly we will be far more concerned when that fraud or that adulteration of a food product has real, physical harm and risk of harm to people, particularly the vulnerable like people who have allergies.”
According to the EU Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, goods that are commonly subject to fraud at the moment include olive oil, coffee, milk, meat, coffee and tea, wine, fish, and honey. In addition, fraud cases might include non-organic ingredients being used in food that’s labelled organic.
An example of food fraud might be, for instance, that olive oil might be diluted with a different, cheaper type of oil. The Italian media revealed a large-scale case of this last year after finding that products labelled “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” actually contained high amounts of cheaper oil and didn’t meet EU labelling guidelines.
Given the complexity of global food supply chains, it’s estimated that it costs billions every year in the UK alone. There are also concerns over food safety, as well as the financial costs to the industry.
The National Food Crime Unit plans to focus on tackling the issue of food fraud in order to protect consumers from the negative impacts it can cause.