According to industry experts one of the variables that contribute to economically motivated food adulteration is large swings in commodity prices. In turn this introduces instability in food supply chains and creates opportunities for fraudsters to substitute genuine products with cheap adulterants. This can occur at any stage of the supply chain, with products involving three or more parties particularly vulnerable.
Yo-yoing commodities cause chaos for the food industry
The price of consumable commodities can fluctuate quite significantly depending on a range of different environmental and social factors. While in the past products requiring expensive ingredients may have been discontinued or undergone a price hike today’s market has been infiltrated with an alarmingly high number of food fraud cases. This sees fraudsters rake in the cash while consumers are left to consume products that are impure, inferior and potentially dangerous.
Food substitution hits every sector
The horse meat scandal was by far the highest profile case, with scientists finding traces of horse meat in ‘beef’ products across Europe. Yet meat is not the only victim. The substitution of high quality ingredients with cheaper alternatives is now seen on almost every supermarket shelf. Pomegranate products are being diluted with red grape juice, frozen fish is being bulked out with water, honey is being mixed with sugar syrup and olive oil is being tainted with soya bean emollient. Not to mention the unauthorised use of counterfeit chemicals that can have catastrophic health consequences.
While cases of food fraud are present during stable economic times, Paul Brereton, coordinator of the EU Food Integrity Project maintains that fluctuating prices and global events can result in soaring cases of cheap adulterants.
Refering to his work with the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), Brereton explains, “Working with other experts in Europe these systems are looking at how major changes in commodity prices and other global events can create the incentives for food fraud to take place. While it is difficult to predict food fraud events our systems will identify future high risk areas based on events that are taking place today.”
Britain takes a stand against food fraud
While swings in commodity prices may create a rise in the number of food fraudsters the UK government is not letting criminals get away unpunished. This year has seen the establishment of the £2 million Food Crime Unit which aims to fight fraudulent food trade, boost Britain’s food safety reputation and restore consumer confidence in the industry.