Fighting Food Fraud to Safeguard the Supply Chain

Fight Food Fraud With a Laboratory Software for the Food and Beverage Industry

October 12, 2021

Food fraud has become a major concern for food manufacturers due to an increasingly globalized food supply chain. Public health is under high threat due to food fraud in the supply chain. Apart from public health, food fraud adversely impacts consumers’ faith in the food industry and government agencies. Food safety authorities around the globe are working to ensure food safety; however, blind spots in food supply chains provide likelihoods for individuals and firms to conduct food fraud.

Food fraud has been rising mainly because of the numerous steps involved in the supply chain, lack of clarity of the origin of the ingredients, insufficient or incomplete audit process, absence of traceability information, and lack of accurate analytical data. Most countries or regions are not prepared to fight food fraud because manufacturers' management systems are not effectively ready to detect alterations in food. It is primarily because the reviews of quality control are performed only at the documentation level or because there are gaps in the vulnerability assessment or even the lack of it.

The lack of upstream supply chain visibility is another challenge faced by food brands. Food brands generally use one-up, one-down traceability; however, it does not keep track of all suppliers involved in manufacturing a specific food item.

Consumers are concerned about what they are eating and if they are getting what they pay for. Many NGOs, policymakers, and other groups are also putting more and more pressure on food brands to improve food integrity and safeguard the overall food supply chain. Government regulations, severe sanctions, and reputed suppliers can efficiently reduce the risk of food fraud. However, this is not enough to systematically detect and prevent potential fraud.

Types of Food Fraud

Some common types of food fraud are as follows:

  • Adulteration: It refers to the inclusion of an ingredient or a substance in a food product that is not mentioned on the product's label to incorrectly represent the product's quality, safety, or origin.
  • Tampering: It refers to the fraudulent use of legal food products and their packaging.
  • Overrun: It refers to the production of legitimate products in surplus quantities that are not reported.
  • Theft: It refers to obtaining food products illegally or dishonestly to gain profit.
  • Waste Diversion: It refers to diverting waste food products back into the supply chain, jeopardizing public safety.
  • Simulation: It refers to the manufacturing of illegal food products that look similar to legitimate products.
  • Substitution: It refers to replacing a food ingredient with a substance of inferior quality.

How to Prevent Food Fraud?

Food crime can be an individual act of dishonesty or illegal activities by a criminal network. Advanced laboratory techniques are important to identify adulteration in ingredients and final food products. Analytical techniques such as rapid PCR testing, gas chromatography, and mass spectrometry can help identify adulteration of food products. High performance and hyphenated techniques, such as UHPLC-MS/MS, ICP-MS, LC-ICP-MS enable simultaneous detection of several adulterants in the level of parts per billion (ppb).

Food manufacturers need to implement a traceability system to identify and track every product from farm to fork. Food brands need to monitor the complete supply chain in real-time. A foolproof traceability system can provide food manufacturers with data-driven insights into a product’s history. This can help food manufacturers take quick actions against potential food fraud and guarantee food safety and authenticity. Laboratory software for the food and beverage industry can help food brands detect problems in the production cycle and notify concerned persons. Hence, corrective actions can be taken to prevent potentially contaminated products from being released to the market. Food brands need more reliable data, improved data analysis, new tools and technologies, and a greater understanding of the underlying scientific, economic, and cultural issues that drive food fraud.

Role of a LIMS in Fighting Food Fraud

A Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) serves as a strategic defense against possible food fraud. Adopting a proactive monitoring approach of the products along the supply chain, together with the structure and consistency that a LIMS offers, helps ensure data integrity and the appropriate tracking of samples. A laboratory software for the food and beverage industry, also known as a Food and Beverage LIMS or Food LIMS, helps generate trustworthy results, maintain transparency in test methods, ensure end-to-end traceability, and help map every stage of the process in the supply chain. With the constant threat of adulterated foods in the market, it is imperative to have a LIMS that assures a high level of data integrity for the analysis performed in a laboratory. A LIMS helps identify potential hazards at specific points in the supply chain and supports strategic vulnerability-based decision-making.

A Food LIMS automates daily laboratory processes and workflows. A LIMS helps in managing QA/QC processes and recording associated data. It also helps flag out-of-specification results so that timely actions can be initiated. The results of the QC samples can be compared with the test samples to identify analytical errors. A laboratory software for the food and beverage industry can help track all activities along with a date and time stamp. A LIMS helps manage important laboratory documents, such as manuals, standard operating procedures (SOPs). It helps in scheduling staff training and maintaining their competency records. Furthermore, laboratory software helps food testing laboratories meet compliance, such as ISO/IEC 17025:2017, FSMA, HACCP, and assure food safety at all times.

Conclusion

The food industry is under constant pressure to keep prices down due to increasing globalized food supply chains and the economic motivation to provide cheaper food products. Food manufacturers need to have proper vigilance through the supply chain to ensure food quality and consumer safety. Food testing laboratories perform several tests on food products to detect foreign materials. They should digitize the testing process to ensure the safety and quality of products. A LIMS can play a key role in fraud detection and prevention. It helps in maximizing the efficiency of laboratories and enables them to provide accurate and reliable test results. The manufacturers must create tailored strategies to reassure the customers that the food they get from the shelves is safe for consumption.


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