In the food industry labelling is of paramount importance. Not only does it give consumers the freedom to trace the content and origins of their food, but it also plays a critical role in keeping buyers safe. When labelling falls victim to fraudulent activity, the consequences can be deadly.
Cumin-gate scandal rocks Europe
One of the biggest food labelling incidents to rock the industry has been the recent cumin and paprika investigation. Across Europe, the popular spices have been found to be contaminated with undeclared traces of almond and peanut residue. For consumers with nut allergies, this could be deadly.So what’s prompted spice manufacturers to contaminate their products with peanut and almond proteins? One theory is the recent failure of Indian cumin crops which saw prices for the spice skyrocket.While Jason Feeney, Chief Operating Officer at the FSA maintains that “there is no evidence of food fraud at this stage” he has confirmed that the Food Crime Unit will be investigating the incident further. But is it enough? 15 years on from the Sudan I scandal consumers expect traceability standards to be tightened. Yet the latest cumin and paprika incident indicates that the situation hasn’t improved.
15 years on and still facing food fraud
Back in 2005 the Sudan I scandal saw over 350 food products recalled due to contamination with an illegal food dye. With proven links to human cancer, the toxic dye was found in hundreds of soups , sauces and ready meals. It caused nationwide panic, and not without reason.
What’s being done?
When products pass through several supply chain stages before arriving on consumer shelves, it can be difficult to monitor purity and compliance. The Food Crime Unit is making an ample effort to catch the culprits, with Barbara Gallani, Director of Science & Health at the UK’s Food and Drink Federation explaining, “Countries and companies are taking this incredibly seriously because of the safety aspect for allergic consumers.”Meanwhile, the UK has joined forces with an international campaign targeting the undeclared use of nuts. With the EU, US and Canada all on-board, as well as trade associations and food manufacturers, the industry is hoping to pinpoint the source, and scale of the threat as soon as possible.