In the days following the food fraud scandal with horsemeat in Europe, as well as the cases being reported from all over the world, awareness is much higher than before. According to a recent food fraud study released by Dalhousie University, 63% of Canadians are worried about food fraud while 40% believes they may have already been victims of food fraud.
By definition, food fraud is any form of misrepresentation or alteration, from presenting a product as organic when it isn’t to using cheaper ingredient substitutes without alerting the buyer or listing the swap. The categories of food that are most vulnerable to the impacts of food fraud are fruits, spices, vegetables, fish, seafoods, meat products, and liquids.
Of the most recent cases of food fraud in Canada, a more notable one is the tomato switch by Mucci Farms – the company faced a fine of $1.5 million because of their practice of selling Mexican tomatoes whilst claiming the produce to be Canadian grown. However, Mucci Farms insists their computer was at fault and that they did not intentionally sell mislabeled products.
Many other cases of food fraud have been popping up all over through the efforts of whistleblowers that are trying to raise awareness to the problem of food fraud. Last year, one of Canada’s biggest poultry processors, Cericola Farms, was charged with food fraud after suspicions of organic mislabelling were brought forward.
Although some may believe that food fraud isn’t much of a problem, potential triggers of allergic reactions and dwindling trust in companies is a large price to pay for cheaper substitutes. Shoppers and diners must be more scrupulous when purchasing groceries or going out for a meal. When the same product is much cheaper in one place, it doesn’t necessarily mean a great buy was found – it may contain unlisted substitutes.
In the modern day, however, there are technologies that can test for food authenticity. These devices, although quite expensive, can allow a health inspector or even customer to validate the contents within their packages of food. No longer would anyone have to wonder if they were being lied to about where their food came from or what it contained.
This recent technology, over time, will likely spook food fraud factories into using pure ingredients out of fear of being exposed. So even though humans may not be able to fix the problem, technology will.