EU - Maintaining the integrity of European foods is vital to protect both consumers and industry and there must be consumer confidence in the authenticity of all food products.
But both are under constant threat from fraudulently labelled imitations.
Recently, the issue of food fraud has been thrust into the spotlight after counterfeit vodka and Basmati rice, among other fake products, were seized in an Interpol operation.
Besides deceiving consumers and posing economic problems - the food industry suffers as perpetrators attempt to cash in on the added value of EU food products and undermine the competitiveness of the agri-food economy - such frauds can have serious food safety implications as a result of fraudulent products being sold to consumers.
The EU-funded FOODINTEGRITY project aims to directly address the issue of food fraud.
The five-year initiative, supported by €12 million of FP7 funding, is spearheaded by the UK's Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA). It brings together major stakeholders and scientific expertise from across the world to protect consumers and industry from food fraud. FERA is at the forefront of research in this area with over 20 years' experience in food authenticity.
The FOODINTEGRITY project will include the creation of an early-warning system to flag up food fraud risks, linked to international data sources, while some €3 million has been set aside to close gaps in food fraud research.
Although there are many kinds of food fraud the two main types are the sale of food which is unfit and potentially harmful and the deliberate misdescription of food.
Food fraud may also involve the sale of meat from animals that have been stolen or illegally slaughtered, as well as wild game animals like deer that may have been poached. FOODINTEGRITY will notably address many of the post-horse meat issues at EU level.
FOODINTEGRITY brings together 38 international partners from industry, academia and government institutes.
The project will work on achieving several key aims, including making testing methods for food fraud consistent to improve food law enforcement across Europe and establishing a self-sustaining worldwide network of industry, regulator and consumer representatives to ensure project legacy.
It will also involve a consumer study in China to assess Chinese consumer attitudes in the face of substantial counterfeiting of European food.
UK Minister for Food, George Eustice said: “The UK has some of the highest standards of food safety in the world and is home to some of the best minds in science. I'm immensely proud that we have been chosen to drive world-leading, cutting-edge research that will improve our ability to prevent food fraud.”
Paul Brereton, FOODINTEGRITY project coordinator and head of agri-food research at FERA, added,: “As the perpetrators of food fraud use increasingly sophisticated methods to avoid detection so science must develop to detect and prevent this crime. The project will provide a focal point for the sharing and exploitation of European research aimed at protecting the integrity of food production in Europe.”
TheMeatSite News Desk