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Food fraud: is track & trace the solution?

14 October 2018

According to product inspection company Mettler-Toledo the increase in online food shopping could result in more unsafe counterfeit products making it to the consumer unless the industry acts quickly. 

“Counterfeit food is a growing problem worldwide, driven in part by the explosion of the digital marketplace. Anyone can set up shop as a 'legitimate' salesperson online, offering foodstuffs for sale without much in the way of regulation,” said Joanna Mooberry, a Mettler-Toledo spokesperson.   
 
“One example is mail-order meat, which is being moved up-market by companies focusing on provenance and sustainability. With margins of 40% being achieved by legitimate suppliers, it makes counterfeiting an increasingly attractive financial proposition for criminals.”
 
The scale of the problem was clearly illustrated when, in 2017, a joint operation between Europol and INTERPOL seized 9,800 tons of counterfeit food, 26.4 million litres of counterfeit beverages and 13 million other food items. But, according to Mettler-Toledo, the fight against food fraud needs to at the processing and packaging stage.
 
“Serialisation and track & trace techniques have proved highly effective in combatting fraud in other industries like pharmaceuticals. In the food industry, investment has been limited to high value items where producers use a universal labelling system to prove authenticity. This approach has significant benefits, both in maintaining sustainability and protecting consumers from the consequences of counterfeit goods. The continued growth in food fraud indicates that it is time to apply the same traceability techniques to spices, meat products, olive oil and wine, where counterfeiting is an enormous issue and safety is paramount,” continued Mooberry.
 
Food fraud cannot be solved overnight – but the implementation of Track & Trace technology throughout the supply chain could go a long way towards making counterfeiting far less attractive, drive sustainable food sourcing and ensure consumer safety.


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