Winter 2012
|
HALAL CONSUMER
33
“Third party audits can
really help confirm the
trust in a supplier. (They)
are (a) key function
in addition to ongoing
market monitoring for
fraudulent product, test-
ing of incoming goods,
and a general focus on
reducing vulnerabilities”
Spink defines food fraud
) as the intentional substitution, mis-
representation, tampering with or addition of food ingredients or food packaging,
for economic gain. These are often unconventional, poor quality, even harmful
contaminants. In 2008, melamine was added to infant formula and pet food to
falsify protein content, at the expense of consumer’s health and wellbeing. Other
food fraud discoveries by Spink and colleagues was that lesser value seafood,
and even leading brand name olive oil imports to the US, were being mislabeled
as higher value products. Similarly, it comes as no surprise that meat stores,
including your neighborhood ethnic butcher, often fraudulently label products as
halal. In the USA, laws have been passed in several states against the fraudulent
use of halal labels on meat products.
What makes food fraud hard to detect? “The bad guys are clandestine, stealthy,
and actively seeking to avoid detection. They’re trying to dupe us. For many
products, it is very difficult if not impossible to determine some attributes such
as natural, sustainably harvested, any specialty treatment or country of origin,”
says Spink.
Foodfraud.org, a database Spink and his colleagues have created, lists the most
adulteration/fraud prone ingredients and foods. On the list are olive oil; coffee;
apple and orange juice; saffron; honey adulterated with sugar; diluted fruit juice
and corn syrup; and watered down milk.
In order to certify food, personal care products or nutritionals as halal, IFANCA
certification involves the scrutiny of all ingredients, their sources and handling
mechanisms at every stage of the manufacturing process. As far as fraud preven-
tion is concerned that’s a good thing, according to Spink. “Third party audits can
really help confirm the trust in a supplier. (They) are (a) key function in addition
to ongoing market monitoring for fraudulent product, testing of incoming goods,
and a general focus on reducing vulnerabilities,” he says.
IS FOOD FRAUD A LARGE SCALE HAPPENING OR ARE WE
BEING ALARMIST?
“The actual scale is unknown or potentially unknowable… first there is no precise
definition of fraud, second recordkeeping often is not in the same format, and
finally we often are not able to detect that we have received or consumed a fraudu-
lent product. Bad guys don’t submit annual reports of their production! That said…
general product counterfeiting and product fraud estimates are 5-10% of world
trade… (that’s) huge. Specifically, the UK estimated their “food related fraud” at
“around 10%,”” says Spink. “Fortunately, the vast majority of food fraud incidents
do not include a public health threat. The best way for consumers or companies to
avoid food fraud is to work with trusted suppliers. In our family, we buy from retail-
ers who have a vested interest in keeping us as repeat customers.”
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Mujahed Khan is Assistant Editor with Halal Consumer
magazine and Associate Instructor of Food Analysis and Quality Assurance with the
Food and Nutrition Sciences Department at Dominican University, River Forest, IL.
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