The UK has been warned by industry experts that a new food crisis could be on the horizon, and be much more serious than the horsemeat scandal. A bad cumin harvest in India has had repercussions around the globe, and it is feared that fraudsters are replacing cumin with almonds and peanuts – which could have fatal consequences for the UK’s half a million nut and legume allergy sufferers.
Cumin is used in many of Britain’s popular products including curry, stews, soups and processed meals. Professor Elliot, who led the inquiry into the horsemeat crisis, predicts that the spiralling prices of Cumin will lead to the substitution of cheaper alternatives such as nuts. Two cases have already been identified and recalled.
Tracey Cranney, Operations Manager at QADEX, said, “Undeclared nuts in any food product is extremely dangerous, whether intentional or not. It is essential that retailers and manufacturers remain on high alert for any fraudulent activity, in particular mislabelled nut products which could sabotage food chains. Supplier auditing and management is made easy with specialist programs such as QADEX.”
This potential threat is the first serious issue which the FSA has had to deal with since the inception of the Food Crime Unit, which was set up in response to the horsemeat saga. Similar undeclared nut substitutions have been identified in the US, and Professor Elliot fears the failed cumin crop may have sparked fraud worldwide.
Professor Elliot is quoted in The Independent commenting on the food crisis, “This is the first real test of the integrity of the UK food supply system since the horsemeat scandal and it’s actually much, much more serious…Whenever there’s a crop failure you always have to look to see what the potential fraud is behind that. This time the crop failure is cumin and it does seem to be that there has been fraud going on.”
Traces of nuts in food can cause a varied reaction in allergy suffered, ranging from sneezing and swelling to abdominal pain and cardiac arrest. In the worst case scenario these incidents are fatal which poses the question – if fraudsters are identified using undeclared nut products, should they be held liable for any permanent injury or deaths? Will the FCU and FSA toughen up the punishment on criminals in the food supply?
Tracey added, “We’re thankful that the alarm has been raised publicly, so manufacturers and consumers can remain vigilant. However it is worrying to see that food fraud is getting more serious, and the criminals clearly don’t care about – or realise they are – putting lives at risk. We are currently working on a risk assessment dashboard that will allow our customers to make informed choices when it comes to fraud.”
To find out more about QADEX’s food safety software visit http://www.qadex.com/
About QADEX: Enabling step change improvement in food safety and brand protection, QADEX Vision brings every aspect of food safety, quality management systems, compliance, customers and new product development together in one simple dashboard.