According to estimates from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), food fraud could affect at least 1% of the global food industry, costing as much as $40 billion. It’s a much more common issue than many may think, and it has knock-on effects on both consumers and the farming industry producing the food.
But where is the point of origin for this fraud? And how badly is it affecting the global food industry beyond the monetary loss? Electrix, a leading global supplier of electrical junction boxes that works closely with the industry, has offered expert insight into food fraud throughout the country and how it connects with other regions around the world.
A brief intro to food fraud
Food fraud is a concept that’s been around for a long time, but it cannot be stated enough how negative an impact it has on organic farming in America. Fraudulent practices in the food industry can seek to take advantage of the premium prices associated with organic products, especially as they can cost around 21% more than their conventional equivalents.
The fraudulent practices that can occur tend to be around the mislabeling of products as organic when the production of them is anything but. Similarly, actual organic products could be diluted and watered down with non-organic alternatives, or even fake organic certification could be used on the packaging.
Not only are consumers tricked into paying higher prices for products that aren’t within the guidelines required to be labeled as organic, but it can also affect their trust in organic food. This can have a huge knock-on effect on the farming sector, as legitimate organic farmers cannot face up to the fraudulent competition, which can be a massive risk to their livelihood.
The connection with France and the rest of the globe
To understand how large the issue of food fraud is, we must look at its implications around the world and how the supply chain in the industry is affected. France is an example and has a key connection with America, as many products sold on our grocery store shelves are imported and sourced from international markets like Europe.
Because of the higher prices associated with organic products and their shipments overseas, there have been scandals around fraudulent foods being misrepresented as organic, making their way from countries like France to our shores.
The crackdown on food fraud in these countries can be seen in how those caught are being handled, such as a court in Marseille sentencing 15 people for their involvement in a network that allegedly sold meat from horses banned from the supply chain to butchers that may have been unfit for consumption. This comes as a result of traffickers of the animals falsifying documents and passports to reintroduce the animals to the supply chain.
Tackling the fraud at the source
It’s important to maintain the trust between organic farmers and both the consumers and distributors of their products, which is why cutting off food fraud at the source is crucial. How this can be done involves a multitude of approaches:
- Collaborative efforts internationally – Creating and maintaining relationships between nations that aim to enforce standards and consistency for organic foods is key to discovering food fraud cases before they develop into scandals.
- Transparency in the supply chain – By implementing traceability measures throughout the supply chain, fraudulent processes and activities can be deterred. Introducing innovations like blockchain technology can provide a decentralized and tamper-resistant ledger that offers real-time information about the transportation of organic food products from farm to table.
Innovating and implementing new technologies:
- DNA testing – Technology has advanced to the point where testing the DNA is possible and can be used to identify how authentically organic a food product is. Being able to compare the genetic makeup of a product against what is expected of an organic version can help authorities identify if any fraud has occurred.
- Smart packaging – Through implementing smart packaging solutions within the production process, consumers can access detailed information about where the product comes from, as well as certifications and testing results. This allows consumers to make informed choices about the products they’re purchasing. This can be done by attaching QR codes or RFID tags to the packaging that consumers can scan.
More education for consumers:
- Raise awareness – To improve consumer awareness of the risks posed by food fraud in organic farming, further education is necessary. This could be done through awareness campaigns to give consumers a better insight into how the products they purchase affect the industry.
- Supporting Local Farmers – Localizing processes and production can help protect and support certified organic farmers while fostering community. Creating a direct connection between the producers and the consumers cuts out the middleman created by international supply chains and reduces the chance of fraud occurring.
Food fraud shouldn’t be disregarded, and the serious nature of its impact should be taken as seriously as other forms of fraud. Protecting organic farming throughout the country and guarding its reputation will help connect consumers with producers and establish a bond of trust and loyalty that will stimulate the economy and help develop communities.