Food Fraud

Food Crime: Do You Actually Know What’s in Your Food?

The Scottish food crime unit has announced that they suspect food crime to be ‘likely’ in seafood, meat and alcohol.

Food crime is most commonly a form of serious fraud however can be related to other forms of criminality, such as theft. Some common examples of food crime are mislabeling where food has originated from, theft of livestock and substituting one ingredient for a similar lower-quality ingredient.

The Scottish food crime unit has stated that they suspect seafood such as tuna and salmon to be most likely to be affected by food crime. Concerns with salmon are thought to be falsely stating the origin of where the salmon has been caught, tuna is thought to be substituted with lower quality cuts marketed as premium cuts. Consumer safety is a high cause for concern when discussing food crime, especially in the substitution of ingredients. This raises issues with allergen safety – a topic that has received a lot of publicity recently due to the enforcement of Natasha’s law. Natasha’s law came into effect on 1st October 2021, and requires business to include a list of all ingredients used in pre-packaged food. This has led to the food industry taking a stricter approach to allergy handling and awareness

Food Crime: Do You Actually Know What’s in Your Food?

Other food groups, such as alcohol, especially vodka, have been highlighted as a cause of concern due to counterfeit labelling. Vodka is the most commonly faked alcohol due to its low price point. Some of the most common ways vodka falls under food crime is through counterfeit labelling – which is when a spirit is labelled with a large brands label however has not been produced by the larger brand. A second way vodka is used during food crime is through the substitution of chemicals, common chemicals used are anti-freeze, screen wash and nail polish remover. Counterfeit alcohol is a large health concern for consumers, due to the substitution of chemicals that are not made for human consumption which cause significant health issues or result in death. 

Food Crime: Do You Actually Know What’s in Your Food?


The agency has released a strategy for 2022-2025 outlining the priorities and actions taken to prevent food crime. However, it has released a self-assessment process to help businesses manage their own supply chain to ensure that food crime is not happening. The agency has stated that the only way that food crime can be managed is through investigating the supply chains and ensuring there are quality checks at every stage of production. 


One of the main influences for committing food crime is economic pressure. Globally there has been an increased cost in production costs, and as a result, we may see some suppliers cutting corners or committing fraud to keep costs lower and have an increased profit margin.

Ready-made meals are a product that is most at risk of being a victim of food crime; this is often due to their low resale price in an attempt to generate more profit. This was seen in 2013 during the horsemeat scandal, where suppliers replaced British beef with European horsemeat and pork. The findings of the investigations carried out in this food crime scandal caused massive damage to commercial interests and brand reputation. During the Horsemeat scandal sales of beef decreased by over 550,000 tonnes.  Additionally sales of quorn and other vegan alternatives were seen to rise in sales by 13% suggesting that consumers no longer felt safe in purchasing meat products. 

Food Crime: Do You Actually Know What’s in Your Food?

Here at QADEX we have over 12 years of experience helping food safety teams deliver step-change improvements in food safety and brand protection. We have robust supplier approval abilities which involves conducting robust risk assessments and additionally supplier audits, reducing your risk and protecting your brand. 


Deliver your consumers comfort in knowing their supply chain is trustworthy and reliable.

Whether for fraud prevention, modern slavery, risk management or supply chain sustainability, you may need to map all or part of your supply chain.