How certification can prevent food fraud
Food fraud is an increasing challenge for the food industry and requirements for the prevention of food fraud are becoming more and more stringent. International food safety standards can help combat food fraud. Here's how.
Food fraud occurs when a food supplier deliberately misleads its customers about the quality and content of the food they buy. Although food fraud is often motivated by profit, some forms of food fraud can also pose a direct threat to the health of consumers (source: Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO).
Effective food safety system
Certification according to a standard recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) demonstrates that a company has implemented an effective food safety system that also addresses vulnerabilities related to food fraud. GFSI recognized standards contain requirements that help to develop a framework for the prevention of food fraud, for example requirements for system for approval of suppliers and raw materials, routines for receipt control, vulnerability assessment of raw materials, preparation of damage mitigation measures, requirements for verification, internal audit and management's review. Examples of these standards include BRC Food and FSSC 22000. The ISO 22000 standard also has a few specific requirements that deal with food fraud.
Companies that are certified undergo annual verification by an external auditor to confirm compliance with the standard owner's requirements.
BRC Food - first standard to include food fraud requirements
The first version of "The Global Standard for Food Safety" (BRC Food standard) was published in 1998, in 2023 version 9 will come into force. BRC Food was the first food safety standard to include food fraud requirements (2015).
Food fraud is incorporated in several requirements of the BRC Food standard:
- The organization's policy shall include an obligation to meet the requirements to produce authentic products (1.1.1).
- Management's review shall include an evaluation of the effectiveness of the systems for securing authentic products (1.1.4).
- Management shall ensure that the plant is informed of and assesses new risks related to the authenticity of raw materials (1.1.8).
- Food fraud is listed as a type of hazard to be assessed in HACCP along with microbiological hazards, physical contamination, chemical and radiological contamination, malicious product contamination and allergen risk (2.7.1).
- The food fraud plan must be revised internally annually (3.4.1).
Approval of suppliers and raw materials:
- The system for approval and monitoring of suppliers of raw materials and primary packaging shall include the risk of food fraud, the risk shall be understood and managed (3.5.1).
- A documented risk assessment must be made of each raw material / raw material group, including primary packaging, to identify potential risk of food fraud. It must be assessed how significant the risk is, and the risk assessment forms the basis for procedures for reception control and testing as well as follow-up procedures for suppliers. The risk assessment shall be kept up to date (18.104.22.168/3.5.2).
- Outsourced processes must be managed with a view to food fraud (3.5.4).
- Merchandise shall also be covered by a system for approval of suppliers, here both supplier and producer shall be included in the assessment of food fraud (9.1.1).
- Systems must be established that minimize the risk of purchasing counterfeit raw materials and it must be ensured that all product descriptions are legal, accurate and verified (5.4).
- Processes must be established to gain access to information on historical developments and trends in the supply chain that may pose a risk of food fraud (5.4.1).
- A documented vulnerability analysis of each raw material / raw material group must be performed to identify the potential risk of food fraud (dilution, substitution, etc.). Factors to be considered are historical events, financial motivation, how exposed / available the raw material is in the supply chain, the possibility of analysis to uncover food fraud and the properties of the raw material. The vulnerability analysis forms the basis for a documented food safety plan. The plan must be kept continuously updated and formally reviewed annually (5.4.2).
- Where raw materials are considered to be particularly exposed to food fraud, the food safety plan shall include damage mitigation measures and / or test procedures (5.4.3).
- If products are marked with "claims" (claims about, for example, origin, certifications, CoC), the status of each batch must be verified (5.4.4).
BRC has a number of resources available for purchase on its website, including "Understanding vulnerability assessment" can be useful. They also offer courses, such as "Vulnerability Assessment for Food Fraud", as well as various webinars.
BRC Food definitions related to food fraud
Food fraud - Fraudulent and intentional substitution, dilution or addition to a product or raw material, or misrepresentation of the product or material, for the purpose of financial gain, by increasing the apparent value of the product or reducing the cost of its production.
Vulnerability assessment - A risk assessment designed to examine processes and supply chains for potential food fraud. BRC Global Standards has developed a guideline to assist sites with vulnerability assessments
Authenticity / authentic product - Food authenticity is ensuring that food or raw materials purchased and offered for sale, are of the nature, substance and quality expected.
The Food Safety System Certification 22000 (FSSC 22000) was established in 2010 and offers a complete certification Scheme for the auditing and certification of Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS). The standard consists of three elements: ISO 22000:2018, ISO/TS 22002-1 and FSSC additional requirements. Food fraud is incorporated in several requirements of the FSSC 22000 standard:
ISO 22000: 2018 - systematics with the PDCA cycle
The ISO 22000 standard contains some specific requirements regarding food fraud, mentioned in Chapter 4 under the organization's context. The systematics of the PDCA cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act) forms the basis for planning, execution, control and correction related to food fraud.
ISO / TS 22002-1: 2009:
The technical specification has no specific requirements that deal with food fraud, but describes requirements that are relevant, such as the process for evaluating suppliers and receiving control of purchased materials.
FSSC 22000 definitions related to food fraud
Food Fraud - A collective term encompassing the deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging, labelling, product information or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain that could impact consumer health (GFSI v7.2: 2018).
Vulnerability - Susceptibility or exposure to all types of food fraud, which is regarded as a gap or deficiency that could impact consumer health if not addressed.
FSSC 22000 Scheme version 5.1, Part 2 Requirements for organizations to be audited:
Requirements for food fraud are defined in chapter 2.5.4 Food Fraud Mitigation.
- 22.214.171.124 Vulnerability analysis - The organization must have established a documented procedure for conducting a vulnerability analysis for food fraud in order to identify and assess potential vulnerabilities. Develop and implement damage mitigation measures for significant vulnerabilities.
- 126.96.36.199 Plan - The organization must have a documented plan for damage limitation for food fraud. This shall specify which damage mitigation measures are implemented for the organization's processes and products within the scope of the management system for food safety. The food fraud plan shall be supported by the organization's management system for food safety, it shall take into account current regulations and be up to date.
FSSC 22000 has prepared a guidance document for food fraud "Guidance document: Food Fraud Mitigation".
GFSI: Once certified, recognized everywhere
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) was established in 2000 at the initiative of the industrial network "The Consumer Goods Forum" (CGF). The aim of the organisation is to improve food security in order to increase consumer confidence, as well as to promote efficiency by reducing the need for more certifications. GFSI is engaged in benchmarking and harmonization, and standards that meet the GFSI requirements are given the status of GFSI-recognized. An important statement from GFSI is "Once certified, recognized everywhere".
Kiwa helps you mitigate food fraud vulnerabilities
Kiwa offers global certification, verification and (production and equipment) control services to help you as a retailer, supplier, producer, logistics partner or farmer, to build customer confidence. Would you like to know more about how our certification services can help you mitigate food fraud vulnerabilities? Please contact us using the form on this page.