Europe saw spike in food fraud last year

The EU Food Fraud Network received 234 requests from member states for cooperation on fraud incidents last year, a 30 per cent increase.

The number of requests – which are made by one member state seeking assistance from others in the EU on specific cases of food fraud – rose from 178 in 2017 and 157 the previous year, says the FFN in its annual report.

Germany was the source of around a quarter of all the requests at 58, followed by France (32), Belgium (23) and Italy (11), with Denmark, the UK, Sweden on each

“The complex nature of our globalized food supply chains and the economic motivation to provide cheaper food products have contributed to the prevalence of food fraud,” says the report, which notes that the cost of fraud is estimated at around €30bn ($34bn) a year.

Recent scandals such as horse meat in beef products and fipronil in eggs have resulted in a situation where “competent authorities are losing credibility, companies are losing money and consumers are losing trust in food,” it continues. “It creates a major paradox: EU food is safer than ever, yet consumer’s trust is low.”

The FFN was set up by the European Commission’s health directorate (DG Sante) in 2013 in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

Looking at the 2018 cases, 42 per cent of the requests were prompted by suspected mislabelling, with around 20 per cent apiece attributed to absent or falsified documentation and adulteration of a product. In 13 per cent the prompt was an unapproved treatment or process, with a little over 5 per cent down to intellectual property (IP) infringements – a group that would include counterfeiting.

Seafood product accounted for the most requests at 45, followed by meat products other than poultry (41) and fats/oils (29). Alcoholic beverages also featured prominently at 17 cases, along with dietetic foods/food supplements (12) and herbs and spices (10).

“In 2018…several targeted actions resulted in DG Sante contacting the non-EU countries concerned asking to carry out investigations at the premises of suspicious establishments or announcing reinforced checks or even the withdrawal of the establishments of origin of the products from the list of establishments from which imports into the EU Member States are

authorised,” says the FFN.

Among the highlighted cases in 2018 were products sold as extra virgin olive oil but of inferior quality being distributed in the UK, and the fraudulent selling of tuna that was intended for canning but adulterated with chemicals to make it appear fresh.

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