Updated 29 January 2023
A food fraud database is a collection of information about food fraud incidents and food fraud risks. There are paid and free databases operated by governments, not-for-profits and private companies. The type of data varies from database to database, as does the cost and the features.
There are four well-known, pay-to-use food fraud databases. Since 2020, company mergers, acquisitions, and name changes have made it hard to understand which database is which – and which one is best for you. The four best-known commercially operated databases are listed below.
(1) EMAlert by Battelle. This database has been around for many years, but no longer has a high profile. It still exists, but contains information for only a limited number of commodities. https://www.emalert.org/
(2) HorizonScan (FERA). This tool was developed by the UK government’s Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA). It is widely used and includes alert systems and information about food safety, food fraud and suppliers. https://horizon-scan.fera.co.uk/
(3) Decernis’ Food Fraud Database (formerly the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) Food Fraud Database). The Decernis Food Fraud Database includes scholarly articles on testing and detection methods as well as food fraud incidents. https://decernis.com/products/food-fraud-database/
(4) Agroknow’s FoodAkai is the most recently developed tool. It uses sophisticated AI to analyse data from global food safety agencies to offer insights into hazards in raw materials, ingredients and products. Like HorizonScan, it includes food safety as well as food fraud issues and incidents. https://agroknow.com/foodakai/
FoodChainID is another big name in food fraud tools and they also list a product called HorizonScan™ on their website. Confusingly, FoodChainID’s HorizonScan™ is the same as FERA HorizonScan. The difference is in the regional distribution rights for each product. FoodChainID – a company – distributes the HorizonScan product in the USA. FERA distributes it in non-US markets.
FoodChainID also has a partnership with EMAlert and recently bought the company Decernis, which owns the (formerly USP) Food Fraud Database. This makes FoodAkai the only well-known paid tool that is independent of FoodChainID.
A less well-known paid service is MerieuxNutriSciences’ Safety HUD, which monitors official agencies and other sources for alerts on food safety and frauds. Safety Hud 2.0 | Food Compliance Solutions (mxns.com)
There is a notable lack of transparency in the pricing of food fraud databases. Fees to access the databases are usually levied on a subscription basis. The cost varies depending on the number of users and whether you are a consultant or a single food company.
All the databases listed above offer either a free trial or a guided demonstration, so you can compare them to decide which might be best for your company’s needs.
Food Fraud Advisors has no financial relationships with the products or companies listed here, though we do have contacts at each organisation, so if you would like a no obligation introduction, just ask. We do not earn a commission from such introductions.
(1) Food Fraud Advisors’ Food Fraud Risk Information Database (hosted on Trello) is a free and open-access online database of food fraud incidences and emerging threats, organised by food type. No log-in required. https://trello.com/b/aoFO1UEf/food-fraud-risk-information
(2) FoodSHIELD is a US Government-Academic partnership. Access to the FoodSHIELD food fraud and food defense database is limited to representatives from local, state, and federal governments, the military and laboratories that perform analyses. https://www.foodshield.org
(3) Food Protection and Defense Institute (USA)’s Food Adulteration Incidents Registry. Access by special request only. https://incidents.foodprotection.io/about
(4) Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) is managed by a group of European national food safety authorities and alerts its member states to incidences of food and feed safety and integrity. RASFF publishes a searchable database for investigating incidences of food fraud. To learn more about RASFF click here. For direct access to the database, open the RASFF Portal.
(5) US FDA’s Recalls and Food Safety Alerts, has a searchable database and includes incidents arising from food fraud. http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/
(6) MEDISYS for Food Fraud (MEDISYS-FF) is a food fraud media monitoring system that uses information from the Europe Media Monitor to collect media reports related to food fraud. The reports can be filtered by country of origin, keyword and date. You can request access to the system by submitting a form. https://bigdata-wfsr.wur.nl/2020/09/18/medisys-for-food-fraud/
Which Database Should I Use?
What are your needs? Check the headings below to see which best describes your company’s needs for food fraud information.
Low budget and/or need information infrequently
If you have a low budget and don’t need to access information often, Decernis’ Food Fraud Database has cost-effective single month or month-to-month subscriptions.
Custom alerts for specific ingredients or foods
All four paid databases allow you to create custom alerts for products, ingredients of interest. You receive an email or other notification when a new incident occurs.
Food safety and food fraud alerts
HorizonScan and FoodAkai both include food safety hazards as well as food fraud hazards in their reporting and alert systems.
Analytical test methods information
Decernis’ Food Fraud Database includes test method information and research papers.
Large number of users across multiple sites
If you have a high number of users who want to access the database or a very large number of products, HorizonScan and FoodAkai have enterprise-level subscriptions so users on different sites can set up their own reports and alerts.
Predictions about future hazards
FoodAkai promises early warning of emerging risks, which are predicted using AI technology. The makers of FoodAkai say their software predicted the multi-country, multi-product ethylene oxide in sesame recall disaster of 2020-2021.
Students, occasional needs, non-food professionals
The Food Fraud Information Database hosted on Trello is a great place to start your food fraud journey if you are a student or new to the food industry. It is free and contains good summaries of the types of food fraud that affect various foods. However, it is not easily searchable (you can buy a searchable ‘snapshot’ in Excel form) and it does not provide custom alerts. Incidents added to the database are mostly drawn from international media and are heavily weighted to English language media, so are not suitable for accurate counting or mapping of incidents.
Other free information about European and North American foods
RASFF (Europe) and FDA Recalls and Food Safety Alerts (USA) mostly contain food safety incidents, with few food fraud incidents. Much of the data derives from cross-border food movements, especially in RASSF. They are both free and searchable and can be a useful adjunct to the free food fraud database on Trello.