Updated 26th June 2022
Some foods are more susceptible than others to economically motivated adulteration, substitution and dilution. Understanding the susceptibility of an ingredient or raw material type is an important part of every food fraud vulnerability assessment process.
A TWO PART PROCESS
Susceptibility is investigated in two parts.
(1) General Susceptibility (is this type of food often affected by food fraud or not?)
You can estimate a foods general susceptibility using publicly available information.
(2) Specific Susceptibility (is the food we purchase likely to be affected by food fraud?)
The specific food fraud attributes depend on your supply chain, management of the supply chain and testing and auditing activities.
STEP 1. GENERAL SUSCEPTIBILITY
To investigate the general susceptibility of a food or ingredient to food fraud, use publicly available information about incidences of fraud that have occurred in the past and that might occur in the future.
There are a few different ways to access information about previous incidences and emerging issues with a raw material type, as shown below.
1. Online databases – access to historical data:
A food fraud database provides a way to access historical information about food fraud.
A food fraud database is a collection of information about food fraud incidents and food fraud risks. There are a number of free and paid databases operated by governments, not-for-profits and private companies available worldwide. The type of data varies from database to database, as does the cost and the features. For a current list of food fraud databases, check out our post Food Fraud Databases Compared.
2. Email alerts via subscription service:
Email services provide near-to-real-time information about food fraud incidents as they occur. This can be a good way to keep on top of developing food fraud risks. Below is a list of email subscriptions that can provide information about food fraud.
- Food Forensics, a laboratory located in United Kingdom, offer a monthly horizon scanning risk newsletter to members.
- FoodChainID Horizon Scan is a paid subscription service that provides alerts on adulteration and fraud, as well as food safety contamination events.
- Some trade associations provide email services to members.
- The Rotten Apple, by Karen Constable (of Food Fraud Advisors), is a weekly newsletter that includes trends and analysis as well as a summary of updates made to the Trello Food Fraud database each week.
- Government-run food safety and food regulatory bodies in some jurisdictions send emails to interested parties. Contact your local authority for more information.
3. Direct intelligence:
Direct intelligence is another means of gathering information about the occurrence of food fraud for a given food or ingredient.
- Information can be obtained by asking law enforcement officials and government departments.
- Suppliers can provide information about their material types.
- Trade associations can be approached for information on food fraud and emerging issues.
- Conferences and webinars about food fraud and food defence are held regularly and these can be a good source of information.
STEP 2. SPECIFIC SUSCEPTIBILITY
In step one you considered the general likelihood of food fraud occurring for the food or ingredient you are assessing.
In step two you must consider the characteristics of your specific material as it is purchased by your food business.
Characteristics that should be considered include those associated with your supply chain, purchasing policies and the format of the material, for example whether it is a powder or liquid or solid.
Each characteristic should be considered with regards to how it could affect the degree to which a person may be motivated to fraudulently adulterate the material and how it could allow a person to:
a) gain access to the material,
b) commit fraud by adulterating, substituting or diluting the material or
c) avoid detection.
To ensure that all relevant characteristics are considered it is best to use a checklist
Checklists help to ensure that all relevant information has been considered.
You can create your own checklist or use a checklist prepared by experts such as those found in a proprietary Vulnerability Assessment Tool.
There are a number of fraud assessment tools available on-line, with differing degrees of usefulness (some are really annoying to use!). The most comprehensive checklist for food fraud vulnerability assessments can be found in Food Fraud Advisors’ Vulnerability Assessment Tools.
Need more help? Get easy-to-use, comprehensive downloadable templates in our online training course.