What is food fraud

Food Fraud Food adulteration: Possibilities and opportunities for risk minimization in complex networked value chains

5. Legal environment - integrating standards (BRC and IFS)

The basis for all regulations in the area of ​​food integrity is the "Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of January 28, 2002 for the establishment of the general principles and requirements of food law, for the establishment of the European Food Safety Authority and for the determination of food safety procedures4 ”. Chapter II (General Food Law) in Article 8 (Protection of consumer interests) explicitly states:

(1) Food law aims to protect consumer interests and must enable consumers to make informed choices about the foods they consume. The following must be prevented:

a) practices of fraud or deception,

b) the adulteration of food and

c) any other practice likely to mislead the consumer.

All laws, regulations, control regulations and guidelines in this context are derived from this ordinance. The emerging legal situation with regard to food adulteration (in European parlance "food fraud") is heterogeneous and fragmented. A regulation on “food fraud” harmonized under European law does not exist, since the legal regulation of criminal and sanctioning measures falls within the sovereignty of the EU member states and the European legislator can only demand that the member states formulate appropriate legal regulations. At the same time, there are a number of circumscribing regulations that have been formulated in a standardized European way. These can be found among others:

  • in Chapter II, Article 16 of Regulation (EC) No. 178/20023: Prohibition of misleading people through the presentation of a food,
  • in Chapter III, Article 7 of Regulation (EU) No. 1169/20115: integrity of information practice,
  • in Section 2, Section 11 of the Food, Consumer Goods and Feed Code6: Regulations on protection against deception.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is the institution that brings together regulations for the member states in the context of production hygiene, declaration, safety and traceability of food at Community level.

At the European and national level, the partly abstract regulations are flanked by further ordinances, which are used for more precisely defined issues. This includes e.g. B .:

  • the Food Hygiene Regulation Regulation (EC) No. 852/20047, which contains the use of a HACCP system as a central requirement,
  • Regulation (EC) No. 853/2004 on specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin8,
  • Regulation (EC) No. 2073/2005 on microbiological criteria for food9,
  • the Animal Food Hygiene Ordinance (Tier-LMHV) 10 and v. a. m.

Thematically, the national and European legal regulations overlap and mix, and in some cases they build on one another or refer to one another, which is a challenge for consistent implementation by companies, especially since the underlying texts are sometimes very formal and abstract and have specific implementation instructions be missing.

Relevant standards and associated quality management systems attempt to integrate legal requirements and elements of safety as well as their practical implementation among the participants in the value chain, to standardize requirements, especially of the end consumer, and to pragmatically ensure food integrity with the help of very detailed lists of requirements and tests. The penetration of the food production and processing industry, especially in the area of ​​own brands, is so complete that almost every manufacturer, with the exception of perhaps medium-sized producers of regional goods, is subject to these standards.

The driver for the establishment of these standards in Europe is - as the last element in the value chain and as the distributor for the majority of the goods produced - the food retail trade (LEH), e. B. represented by the Main Association of German Retailers (HDE) 11 and by its Anglo-Saxon counterpart, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) 12. The most important current standards are the "BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Version 7" 13 (BRC Food 7) and the "International Featured Standard Version 6" (IFS Food 6).

The standard “Food Safety System Certification 22000” (FSSC 22000), which was published in version 4 at the beginning of 2017, is formally independent of the intellectual property of a specific interest group.

Organizations such as the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) in particular endeavor to make management systems for food safety and food integrity comparable by means of a superordinate catalog of requirements (GFSI Guidance Document) and promote mutual recognition. The GFSI provides, inter alia. the equivalence of FSSC 22000 V4, BRC Food 7 and IFS Food 6. For suppliers of own-brand products for the German food retail trade (LEH), IFS Food 6 or its derived variants are currently the most common.

Although protection against food adulteration and its sanctions are in principle laid out, required and planned in the laws and regulations, current quality management systems and standards still focus predominantly on food quality and food safety and, in some cases, on food protection, i.e. food defense. H. on specifications, claims, declarations and conformity of the raw materials and end products with the rules, conventions and ordinances, in particular for setting limits for microbiological loads, contamination and residues. Only the amendment to IFS Food 6 from November 2017 (IFS Food 6.1) 14 is devoted to rudimentary protection against food adulteration in Chapter 4 “Planning and manufacturing process”, Section 4.21 “Food fraud”. It says in 4.21:

  1. A documented vulnerability assessment ("Vulnerability Assessment") is carried out for all raw materials, ingredients, packaging materials and outsourced processes in order to determine the risks with regard to replacement, incorrect labeling, falsification or imitation. The criteria for the vulnerability analysis are documented.
  2. A documented food fraud reduction plan is in place and implemented to manage all identified risks. This plan relates to the vulnerability analysis. The methods of control and monitoring have been identified and implemented.
  3. In the event of an increased risk, the vulnerability analysis is checked. In general, the vulnerability analysis is reviewed at least once a year. The control and monitoring procedures of the Food Fraud Reduction Plan will be reviewed and adjusted as necessary.

Concrete catalogs of criteria or assistance for the systematic breakdown of the overall risk into more manageable sub-risks are not provided in the standard. Only abstract topics for the evaluation of risk exposures are mentioned:

  • History of food fraud incidents,
  • economic factors,
  • easier possibility for fraudulent activity,
  • Supply chain complexity,
  • current control measures,
  • Trust in suppliers.

The entry into force of IFS Food Standard 6.1 on July 1st, 2018 requires companies to make enormous efforts in order to be able to present the auditors with a robust plan for risk reduction.