Food fraud: What does it mean?

Food fraud: What does it mean?

Food fraud exists whenever individuals or businesses intentionally deceive the consumers, gaining an unfair advantage and violating the agri-food chain legislation.

The intentional infringements to the EU agri-food chain legislation may also constitute a risk to human, animal or plant health, to animal welfare or to the environment as regards Genetic Modified Organisms (GMOs) and pesticides.

Four key operative criteria are referred to for distinguishing whether a case should be considered as fraud or as non-compliance: if a case matches all four criteria, then it is considered a suspicion of fraud. These criteria correspond to the rules currently in place in the EU countries to report frauds:

  1. Violation of EU law: it involves a violation of one or more rules codified in the EU agri-food chain legislation.
  2. Intention: it can be verified through a number of factors which give strong grounds to believe that certain non-compliances are not happening by chance, such as the replacement of a high quality ingredient with a lower quality one (if a contamination due to production processes is possible, when an ingredient is mostly replaced with a lower quality one there is substitution, which often implies fraudulent intent).
  3. Economic gain: it implies some form of direct or indirect economic advantage.
  4. Deception of customers: it involves some form of deception of the customers/consumers (example: altered colouring or altered labels, which mystify the true quality or, in worse cases even the nature of a product). The deceptive element may also come in the form of a public health risk as some real properties of the product are hidden (for example, undeclared allergens).

Resons for Food Fraud