National laws in each EU Member State provide various definitions for facts that represent a certain type of violation of statutory agri-food chain requirements. They are qualified by the intention to deceiveand motivated by the prospect of financial or economic gain, though constitutive elements vary from one national system to the other. In a number of Member States those facts may be relevant for the application of criminal penalties and of procedural rules on criminal prosecution.
The EU agri-food chain legislation does not contain a definition of "food fraud", nor specific tools and mechanisms to counter the criminally relevant facts that are to be brought to prosecution in accordance with applicable national rules. However, a number of initiatives have been taken to improve the capability of Member States’ competent authorities of identifying as early as possible those violations of food law which are motivated by the intention to obtain an undue benefit. This category broadly overlaps with the “fraudulent and deceptive practices” referred to in Article 8 of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 (the “General Food Law”).
The terms “food fraud” or “intentional violations” are used in this section to refer to those violations, without any implication as to their relevance for the application of national criminal law provisions applicable to (food) fraud as defined in each national legal system.
There is no definition of "food fraud" in EU legislation.
Strengthening administrative assistance and cooperation across borders: the Network of Food Fraud Contact Points
The horsemeat scandal showed that one of the weaknesses of the current system of enforcement along the food chain was the difficulty for Member States’ competent authorities to communicate efficiently with their counterparts in other Member States for the purposes of ensuring enforcement in cases of violations having cross-border impact.
The Commission decided therefore to activate a dedicated network of administrative assistance liaison bodies that would handle specific requests for cross-border cooperation in cases of “food fraud”. The dedicated liaison bodies are referred to as “Food Fraud Contact Points” (FFCP). They act, as all administrative assistance liaison bodies, within the legal framework provided in Title IV of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004. The group of FFCPs is collectively referred to as the “Food Fraud Network” or FFN.
By engaging in their Administrative Assistance and Cooperation (AAC) duties, the FFCP and the FFN help to improve the capability of competent authorities to:
- detect and prevent violations of food chain rules, also across borders and in potential cases of “food fraud”;
- collect the information which is needed (in accordance with applicable national rules) to further refer a case to investigation/ prosecution.
In November 2015, the Commission launched a dedicated IT tool for the handling of cases that require administrative assistance to be deployed – the Administrative Assistance and Cooperation (AAC) system. This launch followed the positive opinion given by the Member States at the meeting of the PAFF Committee – section Biological Safety of the Food Chain of 15 September 2015 on the Commission Implementing Decision establishing the AAC system. In the first phase, access to the system is reserved to the Food Fraud Contact Points which compose the Food Fraud Network (FFN). At a later stage, the system will be made available also to the other Administrative Assistance and Cooperation liaison bodies.
Since the date of its creation in July 2013 until the launch of the AAC system, the FFN has exchanged on more than 200 cases.
- 2016 Food Crime Annual Strategic Assessment FSA UK
- 2015 Czech Food Fraud Brochure
5-point Action Plan and ongoing initiatives
In the wake of the horse meat scandal in February 2013, the Commission proposed a 5-point Action Plan , which included specific action directed at the issue at hand as well as longer term objectives.
See what has happened so far - for an overview of actions taken on the basis of the 5-point Action Plan.
- European Parliament's own initiative report on “the food crisis, fraud in the food chain and the control thereof”
- Council conclusions on setting the EU's priorities for the fight against serious and organised crime between 2014 and 2017
- Council Conclusions on the role of law enforcement cooperation in combating food crime
- New training on new investigation/control techniques (fraud and internet sales) under the Better Training for Safer Food Initiative
- Conference on Food Fraud “A Joint effort to ensure the safety and integrity of our food”: 23-24 October 2014, Rome (Italy)
- The EU-funded FoodIntegrity project