Food Fraud & Defence Threats - Closer to Home Than You Might Think (Australian Perspective)

Food Fraud and Food Defence Threats – Closer to Home Than You Might Think

by Dr Andreas Klieber, Quality Associates - Australia
Ph: 1300 73 71 93 E: info@qualityassociates.com.au Web: https://www.qualityassociates.com.au/

In 2018, Australian food threats became front and centre of mind for the food industry and the public as well. Just mention the word needle today and everyone has a story to tell.

In amongst this major threat, we may not have noticed a few other Australian food fraud issues and threats. For example, fake Australian produced liquor (mainly water, colours, alcohol) was fraudulently marketed and after an ABC investigation this product was eventually recalled. Also, the ACCC conducted a major investigation into potentially fake honey being imported into Australia; this was in the end inconclusive. And we are part of an international supply chain which is seeing ever-increasing issues with food fraud; in Europe, there has been a 30% increase in transnational cooperation request for food fraud investigations.

The Australian government acted in response to these threats, including by expanding the Division 82 sabotage offences in the Criminal Code to include food and services and utilities relating to food as ‘public infrastructure’.

Food fraud data shows us the vast amount of national and business income Australia is losing due to lost export opportunities. In 2016/17 this was estimated to amount to $1.5 billion across the fisheries, dairy, horticulture, wine, meat and grains sectors (McLeod, R. 2017. Counting the Cost: Lost Australian food and wine export sales due to fraud. FIAL).

While the costs to companies and consumers from food fraud keep increasing, we cannot forget that food fraud easily spills into food safety issues; just imagine what the consequences from adding allergenic peanut shells into cumin could have been. As it was, in the US more than 700 products had to be recalled due to this issue (Food Safety and Quality, 17 March 2015).

Food companies are moving to deal with these food fraud and defence risks. GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) standards require the implementation of Food Fraud and Food Defence mitigation strategies. But beyond that, leading food manufacturers and retailers are recognising that these measures implicitly reduce overall business failure risk and risks to the bottom line.

To start on this journey of mitigating food fraud and defence risks, through what are termed TACCP (Threat Analysis Critical Control Points) and VACCP (Vulnerability Analysis Critical Control Points) systems, can be overwhelming at first. However, by breaking this process down into specific steps of risk identification, risk assessment and prioritisation these systems can be implemented and managed effectively.

Quality Professionals in the food industry are already exposed to this approach through HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) systems. The key is to recognise that the approach in the TACCP and VACCP systems are not that different in principle. What is different though is that the scope of the TACCP and VACCP systems is much wider. They cover the whole supply chain from source of raw materials, distribution, processing, retailing and to the final consumer.

As an example, the consumer is generally targeted by food fraud and one of the most effective ways of preventing that would be measures that are obvious to the consumer. Much technology and labelling solutions are being developed currently to tip off the consumer to whether they are purchasing a genuine product or not. This includes individual item bar codes, rather than product bar codes, and labels that when inspected by mobile phone apps show up as genuine or not.

Much risk also exists in long raw material supply chains. Approved supplier schemes are meant to deal with this risk, but with an estimated global trade of fraudulent raw materials and foods amounting to $50 billion a year, vigilance is essential. Trusted relationships, cemented through long-term cooperation, understanding of supplier food fraud and defence controls and a site review program are the best ways to minimise these risks. There is no better substitute to going and having a look if it is not clear what risks a supplier poses.

In the final analysis then, Australian food manufacturers and exporters stand to gain much from implementing food fraud and food defence threat countermeasures. This ranges from protecting their consumers and their businesses from due diligence and personal liability point of view to ensuring that food businesses do not fail due to financial burdens of serious scandals. As such, implementation and maintenance of these systems should be driven by the C-suite managers as are other financial and business risks.

Quality Associates offers multiple options for protecting your products from Threats and Vulnerabilities.

We offer:

  1. 1/2 day training course that provides best practice information and guidance for organisations conducting threat and vulnerability assessments in their supply chain and facilities. Read More Here - This option is available to be taught online via video conference anywhere in the world.

  2. 1 Day workshop – This is a popular option that delivers our full TACCP & VACCP System templates. We will spend the day explaining the process and starting the process on your own site so your staff can take the systems and run with it.
    Please email us @ info@qualityassociates.com.au to discuss.

  3. The full system implementation. This option has the important advantage of being an unbiased and independent assessment of your systems. An outside view is important. With every T&V system we implement, we catch important weaknesses that are missed by staff internal staff. This option also saves precious time for your time-poor quality team.
    Please email us @ info@qualityassociates.com.au to discuss.