The Issue of Increasing Food Fraud in Europe

food fraud in europe

A recent article report by ‘Reporterre le quotidien de l’écologie’ on food fraud reveals that one in every twelve purported organic food products is not organic. It also adds that one in two spices is not purely a product of the supposed base ingredient.

The article is largely centered on an interview they had with journalist Ingrid Kragl who works for the NGO called Foodwatch; the NGO has its mission centred on “safe, healthy and affordable food for all.”

According to Ingrid, almost all food products (i.e., fruits, vegetables, fish, oils, spices etc) are at risk of being wrongly labelled or adulterated. She revealed that there are several cherry tomatoes, kiwis and other fruits that were cultivated and produced abroad but are being labelled as originating from France.

Ingrid also stated that apart from the Francization of products, there are also many counterfeits. About 59% of peppers marketed in France are not what they claim to be. Often, bulking substances (like starches, ground olive pomace, sand) have been added, and this is usually done to artificially increase the quantity whiles reducing the product price.

She adds that they have discovered some other food items that are not what they claim to be or are substandard imitations of other products.

The rate of food fraud in France and the greater Europe seems to be increasing unabated; According to a report by Operation Opson (a product seizures and investigations program being conducted by Europol in conjunction with the Interpol), seizures made each year on counterfeit and substandard food products have been increasing across countries in the EU zone – in July 2020 alone, about 12,000 tonnes of illegal and potential harmful food products which had a market value of around 28 million Euros were seized.

Consequences for European Manufacturers and Companies

Fake and counterfeited food products present a humongous problem for production and manufacturing businesses in the Euro zone. The European Commission estimates that the industry loses as much as thirty billion euros per year to this menace.

There also appears to be an opacity surrounding these fake products putting the lives of consumers at risk. Consumers do not get easy or enough access to the information on investigative issues of fake food products after they have come to light.

What makes the situation more dire is the fact that the number of food fraud enforcement officers have been getting significantly fewer over the years. Ingrid Kragl revealed that the Directorate General for Food (DGAL) has lost almost five hundred agents over that last ten years, and it has consequently led to a 33% drop in DGAL controls. She added that “the situation has worsened further since the start of the COVID-19 epidemic.”

How to Mitigate the Situation

It is difficult for the human eye to easily detect counterfeit or substandard imitations of food products they come across on the shelves of supermarkets, neither can consumers easily corroborate the stated origins of a product as printed on the pack or container. It is therefore a matter of urgency to have this problem of food fraud nipped in bud.

Authorities would have to put this issue of counterfeit food products at the fore and see to it that more hands are brought on deck to inspect and investigate. Also, findings on food fraud investigations should be made publicly accessible so that consumers stay adequately informed.

Manufacturers and authorities alike would have to begin employing the use of technology to fight fake products and help with supply chain traceability. Anti-counterfeit solutions like those provided by Cypheme present a wide spectrum of applicability allowing manufacturers to safeguard their products from counterfeits and seeing to it that consumers are empowered to be able to easily and conveniently detect fake food products through the use of their smartphones.

Additionally, anti-counterfeit solutions like that of Cypheme equip parastatals and agencies with the ability to also detect food fraud and even trace fraudulent manufacturing points so that the criminal actors are apprehended.

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