Food Fraud Cases Are Getting More Alarming

Aug 20, 2015 08:50 PM EDT | By Alexis Villarias

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During last month's annual meeting of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) in Portland, Oregon, Mitchell Weinberg, food fraud investigator, addressed the roomful of food safety professionals, "Around the world, food fraud is an epidemic. In every single country where food is produced or grown, food fraud is occurring."  Food Safety News recently conducted an interview with Weinberg discussing the extent of global food fraud and the ways on how to combat this issue.

Weinberg is a former attorney and the CEO of INSCATECH, an agency that investigates foreign food facilities that supply food to the United States.  Joining Weinberg in the panel presentation for food fraud was George Hughes, senior adviser for the Office of Criminal Investigations at the U.S FDA, Andrew Clarke, director of certification and audit for Maple Leaf Foods.

It was discovered that food fraud has become pandemic.  The cases have become more alarming over the past years.  There has been a rise of fraud cases involving deadly adulterants, fraudulent labelling and an increase in legal prosecution for food fraud.  In June, more than 100,000 tons of expired smuggled frozen meat was seized from China.  Some of the meats are already decades old.  It was also found out that China was producing fake rice out of plastic resin and sweet potato.  September last year, walnut crop failures resulted to fraudulent peanut substitution.  There has been a huge recall of supermarkets products in October after finding out they were colored with banned dyes.

The FDA has an estimated 200 agents across the globe investigating, most of who came from the Secret Service or the FBI.  According to Hughes, the scope of their investigation involves food fraud, product tampering, and the manufacture of counterfeit or unapproved drugs.  More so, Hugh said that food fraud is an indication of other illegal activities companies may also involve in.  In the case of Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), aside from its fraudulent sale of contaminated peanuts, the company was also found to be selling the cheap variety of peanuts for the pricier one.

Despite the drastic number of food fraud cases, the panellists discussed efforts to control the situation by prosecution and constant interaction between companies and suppliers.

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