Fighting US$40 Billion Food Fraud to Protect Food Supply Systems

 
 
Fraudsters will find it harder to infiltrate supply chains and benefit from their scams with the recent release of a new online tool, designed to help the food industry fight fraud and protect consumers.

The “Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment Tool”, launched by SSAFE and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in partnership with Wageningen University and Research Centre, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and food companies around the world, will help businesses assess their food fraud vulnerabilities and take suitable action to minimise fraud.

While the increasing internationalisation of food supply systems brings many advantages for consumers, it is generating huge challenges for those in charge of protecting our food from criminal intent. Today, the global food supply system has also become extremely complicated. We do not know exactly where our food comes from; and when the food system breaks down, a food scandal comes to light.

Leaders from governments and corporations agree that the vast majority of food we consume is exceptionally safe. At the same time, they are increasingly confronted with new challenges caused by food fraud as they seek to protect public health, economic development and corporate reputation.

Food fraud and adulteration have come under the spotlight in recent years – with adulterated, mislabelled or misrepresented foods hitting headlines around the world. From horsemeat masquerading as beef, to resin rice pearls and harmful additives added to milk products – food fraud is a growing challenge faced by industry and food safety regulators. Food fraud affects consumer confidence and is estimated to cost the global industry between US$30 billion and US$40 billion a year.

According to Quincy Lissaur, SSAFE Executive Director, food fraud incidents have become more prevalent in recent years due to technological, structural and societal developments.

“Consumer expectations today are different. They expect to be able to buy any product they want anywhere at any time. This trend, which is likely to continue and increase over time, has contributed to more complexity across the food supply chain, which in turn has opened the door to fraudsters. Technological advances and access to technology have also enabled fraudsters to become more sophisticated in the way they can adulterate food.”

“While this doesn’t mean we cannot protect ourselves from fraudulent activity, it does mean that the possibility for fraud is greater and therefore, companies need to protect themselves and their brands more rigorously than they may have done in the past,” Lissaur says.

He adds that this is a key reason why SSAFE worked with multiple partners, including PwC, to develop the Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment Tool – PwC’s strong tradition of helping companies manage risks and improve processes has been a major driver of SSAFE’s partnership.

“By partnering with PwC, SSAFE was able to access their expertise and provide the tool in additional formats, which we would not have been able to do on our own. And PwC’s vision is aligned with SSAFE – in the pre-competitive space of food safety, it is important to provide the food industry with the science-based tools it requires to strengthen itself and protect consumers from potential harm,” Lissaur says.

“As a non-profit organisation, SSAFE believes protecting consumers is vital. By developing this free tool we hope to help strengthen companies’ internal controls while reducing opportunities to adulterate food for economic gain.”

PwC research revealed that more than one in three of all organisations are victimised by fraud, says Julia Leong, PwC’s Southeast Asia leader of food supply and integrity services.

“Food fraud is a global problem, not just one found in Asia, and to deal with this problem, the public and the private sector need to partner to come up with a solution. At PwC, we’ve always been in the business of helping companies manage risk and improve processes. So, it is a great opportunity to work with SSAFE on this free online assessment tool, that we believe can be part of the solution to tackle food fraud.”

According to Leong, the Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment Tool, when applied to a particular food company’s value chain, “can assist you to identify where your weak spots (vulnerabilities) are and areas where you need to focus on to protect your products and your brand. The global food industry is calling time on fraud. With the use of our freely available online tool, it will put food companies in a stronger position to identify vulnerabilities and give consumers greater confidence in the safety of their food.”

SSAFE and PwC’s assessment tool comes ahead of new food safety requirements being introduced by the Consumer Goods Forum’s Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), as well as several regulatory authorities around the world.

“Food may be about taste and nutrition for most of us, but for fraudsters it’s always about using food as a pawn to make easy money. We hope to help food companies strike at the heart of this motivation so fraudsters are less willing and less able to profit from food fraud,” adds Leong.

SSAFE and PwC’s “Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment” is freely available now for all food companies to download in Microsoft Excel format at www.ssafe-food.org or online at www.pwc.com/foodfraud. It will be available for download through Apple’s App Store or Google Play later this month.


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