By Karen Constable
Food fraud occurs when food is used deceptively for economic gain, as such, food fraud is not typically committed with the primary intention of causing harm to consumers. The deception can take forms as diverse as the smuggling of goods across borders to avoid duties and tariffs; falsification of paperwork to misrepresent the special status of food, such as ‘organic’ or ‘kosher’; counterfeiting (copying) of food products by unauthorised manufacturers; switching of one fish species for another; or adding undeclared substances to foods. As these examples elucidate, and because many types of food fraud do not involve any changes to the food product itself, food fraud does not always pose direct risks to food safety.
However, when food is adulterated or otherwise modified, processed or (re-)packed fraudulently, the result is a product that presents significant risks to the health and well-being of the people who consume it. Food fraud perpetrators add materials such as colourants, water retention agents and non-approved preservatives to increase the selling price of the food or to extend its shelf life. The outcomes for consumers can include acute chemical poisoning, allergen-mediated reactions, chronic poisoning and illnesses from pathogens introduced during the adulteration processes.