GFSI Global Food Safety Conference Tackles Food Fraud

One of the must-see sessions at this year’s Global Food Safety Conference in Anaheim, CA. which concluded on Friday 28 February was “Preventing Fraud in your Food”, moderated by the departing GFSI Chair and Corporate Quality General Manager at Danone, Yves Rey. With the horsemeat scandal emerging shortly before last year’s event in Barcelona, this session was an opportunity to discover what developments the industry has made to reduce the risk of economically motivated adulteration (EMA) in the food chain. Other scandals include the widespread adulteration of milk in India (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16487993).
 
Petra Wissenburg, Corporate Quality Projects Director from Danone, Singapore, explained the progress made by the GFSI’s Food Fraud Think Tank. Their approach is that to prevent food fraud crime, you need to think like a criminal. This requires a change of mind set from food safety professionals to anticipate the criminals’ actions.
 
There has been a global response to the scandal, including reports published by the US Congress, European Union, Chinese Government, and the Elliot Report from the UK Government. Recommendations from the Elliot Report [https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/elliott-review-into-the-integrity-and-assurance-of-food-supply-networks-interim-report] included the implementation of vulnerability assessments and vulnerability control plans to monitor and verify the supply chain and their supply chain. For highly profitable products, the risk of counterfeiting should also be assessed due to the risk to public health and organisational reputation.
 
The GFSI’s position is to avoid an increase in the number of audits. Instead, new requirements covering vulnerability assessment will be added to version 7 of the GFSI Guidance Document by the end of 2015, with a position paper expected during 2014. Auditor competence will be essential to implementation and the skills and knowledge required to perform this additional and potentially far-reaching element of assessment will be a focus area for the year ahead.
 
Jeff Moore, Senior Scientific Liaison at the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), explained the factors that could be included in a vulnerability assessment. Ingredients can be “characterised by integrity, identity, and purity, thereby excluding what shouldn't be there”, this concept could also be applied to products.
 
USP has developed a 2D matrix of various factors set against their contribution to vulnerability, including supply chain audit strategy and the susceptibility of QA methods. Does the compositional complexity of the product match the reliability of the test? To do this type of assessment, industry needs access to data to carry out these assessments and the USP has established a database pulling information from global news sources and academia. This will help organisations to identify economic anomalies and shifts that could indicate increased susceptibility to fraud.
 
A common theme across the presentations was the need for information. Industry needs to take responsibility for sharing and information and best practice – and this will require an approach that enables companies to share normally confidential information.
 
During the Q&A, one delegate asked if we will see a day when industry engages with criminals to understand their mind set and to anticipate where EMA will emerge next. We will have to see if that becomes reality, but what is clear, is that industry appears highly motivated to cooperate in new ways to reduce the risks of future public health scares from EMA and the reputational damage that these cause.
 
For more information, download the free White Paper from LRQA entitled Leveraging Management Systems to Tackle Food Fraud.
 
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