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Food fraud - is Track & Trace the solution?

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© Photo: Mettler Toledo
Mettler-Toledo recommends: Manufacturers and brand owners should act quickly to protect their customers and their brands from counterfeiting. The Mettler-Toledo whitepaper “Food Safety Standards and Regulations” provides information on best practices and legal requirements.

The trade in counterfeit food is increasing worldwide. In their jointly coordinated operation “Opson VI”, between December 2016 and March 2017, Europol and Interpol seized 9,800 tons and 26.4 million liters of counterfeit food and beverages with a total value of around 230 million euros.

Online grocery stores make fraud easier

"The business with counterfeit food is a global problem that is worsening not least against the background of the rapid growth of online trade," says Miriam Krechlok, Head of Marketing at Mettler-Toledo Product Inspection Germany. “In principle, anyone can open an online shop and does not need to overcome any high regulatory hurdles to be able to trade in food. But fraudsters are also making use of the new digital sales channels and the changed shopping habits of consumers. ”For example, recipes are increasingly being searched for online, and food blogs encourage people to cook again with elaborately staged images. Foodies looking for special ingredients and specialties that are difficult to find in the local supermarket will quickly find what they are looking for online. Especially for providers who focus on specialties and high-quality products, online trading has opened up completely new markets and marketing opportunities - for example, mail order business with gourmet meat. However, such high-priced products are also attractive to food counterfeiters. Incorrectly declared and inferior goods promise particularly high profit margins.

An effective fight against food counterfeiting must start at the stage of manufacture and packaging of the products. Miriam Krechlok: “Serialization and track & trace techniques have proven their worth in the fight against counterfeiting in other industries, such as pharmaceuticals. So far, they have only been used sporadically in the food industry, for example for high-priced products such as caviar. Here the manufacturers use a standardized labeling system that applies a non-reusable seal with information about the origin of the caviar on the packaging. The process serves the consumer as proof of authenticity and origin and protects him from counterfeiting. In view of the increase in food counterfeiting, the time is ripe to introduce comparable solutions for products at risk of counterfeiting such as olive oil, certain meat products, spices or wine and spirits. "

Food fraud is not a problem that can be solved overnight. However, the implementation of track & trace technologies along the entire supply chain is an important first step in making counterfeits less attractive to fraudsters.