How to Avoid Food Fraud and Be Part of the Solution

Food fraud is an age-old practice of presenting and selling misleading, adulterated, counterfeited, or unreported foods and beverages and their ingredients as authentic, genuine in source, and precisely as labeled. It’s been around for a long time, as long as we’ve traded food and drink, and it’s a growing problem.
Beyond deceiving consumers and jeopardizing users’ health, the crime threatens Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and legitimate livelihoods. In addition, food fraud inflates consumer prices and compromises trust. For manufacturers and sellers of food, beverages, home & personal care products, cosmetics, and perfumes, rather than turn a blind eye, it’s time to be part of the solution.
What Is Food Fraud?
Europol reports recently intercepting fraud across 77 countries, involving around 19 crime syndicates. Roughly 28,000 inspections included illicit meat, seafood, and expired food cases, 2,000 tons of illegal fruits, vegetables, and legumes, and two million liters of fraudulent beverages.
Types of food fraud include:

  • Hiding defects or undesirable traits with undeclared ingredients, for example, enhancing aging fruit with food coloring to make it appear fresher.
  • Selling inferior products under copied labels, known as counterfeiting or simulation.
  • Short-cutting supply chain controls by diverting legitimate products to unintended markets.
  • Misrepresenting product legitimacy through diversion – selling unreported produce or stealing and reselling products.
  • Diluting or bulking up foods or beverages with undeclared, often toxic, ingredients.
  • Intentional mislabeling, such as editing expiration dates, claiming reaction flavors as natural, or not declaring the components of reaction flavors.
  • Substituting cheaper or entirely different ingredients for claimed components, for example, labeling vegetable oil as virgin olive oil or switching beef for horse meat.
  • Including undeclared ingredients to add texture or improve appearance.

In assessing foods for possible fraud, investigators employ a vulnerability assessment. This type of analysis interrogates the product, its context and source, and potential contributors to fraud, such as ease of committing fraud, historical precedents, and economic incentives. The more precedent, motivation, and opportunity, the higher the risk of food fraud.
Identified risks warrant an official identification testing and mitigation approach, including specific tests related to the particular produce, such as dilution in honey and substitution in olive oil. In addition, ingredient and component analysis should be performed to confirm expected molecules and ratios, such as amino acids and sugars.
How Does Food Fraud Impact Flavor and Fragrance Ingredients?
Food fraud represents a similar, significant risk to natural flavors and fragrances.
Maintaining authenticity requires the same vulnerability questions and component testing to be conducted. These sensitive assessments can identify discrepancies in aroma chemicals with a high degree of accuracy. However, fraud is more challenging to confirm within essential oils and natural flavors, leaving these ingredients more at risk.
Full or partial substitution is a danger for flavors, usually involving synthetic alternatives. These manufactured molecules can share purity and organoleptic characteristics with the natural original. However, the authentic ingredient can cost up to a hundred times more than the substitute, leading to fraud. This price discrepancy, food fraud precedents, and ingredient traceability require frequent testing.
Natural status verification is necessary for natural flavor claims, such as with reactive flavors, with carbon-14 analysis as the industry testing benchmark. The presence and condition of this natural isotope may indicate supply chain authenticity and genuine product origin. However, although calling out ingredient fraud, this approach can’t confirm processing or manufacturing deception. Hence, verifying naturalness requires more than confirming ingredients. It also needs an understanding of regulatory requirements for a comprehensive review.
In addition, flavor complexity and reactive flavors increase fraud opportunities and add to verification challenges. For example, valuable and expensive essential oils are vulnerable to substitutions thanks to their multi-layered composition and the availability of convincing synthetic alternatives. In addition, unstable components can decompose over time, resulting in fraudulent aroma masking. As a result, carbon-14 analysis and fingerprint infrared spectroscopy or gas chromatography analyses are recommended to verify natural oils.
Is Ingredient Validation Enough To Counter Flavor and Fragrance Fraud?
Using certified natural ingredients is essential to meet consumer demand for healthier ingredients and offers users peace of mind that they’re consuming and paying for genuine products.
However, while available tests are often effective, many ‘natural’, organic, halal, and kosher claims are hard to check. So, instead, to prevent rather than discover and intercept food fraud after the fact, rely on reputable suppliers who provide third-party product certification.
Being part of the fight against food fraud means choosing reliable natural fragrance and flavor ingredient suppliers. This ingredient partner should offer certification, on-site audits, and frequent document reviews for reliable risk mitigation.
In response, for your peace of mind as a manufacturer, Advanced Biotech provides an extensive range of pure, natural flavors and fragrances. Please contact us for more information.