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Dairy sector teams up to tackle food fraud

A symposium held as part of the ISO/IDF analytical week being held in Copenhagen, Denmark has highlighted the value of collaboration in defending the food chain from food fraud.


A range of initiatives, from a European food fraud network to latest developments in analytical technology were presented giving an encouraging picture of how the dairy sector is mobilising to take on the complex threat of food adulteration.


Opening the session, Claus Heggum, chief consultant at the Danish Agricultural and Food Council said: “The 2008 melamine scandal was a wake-up call for the dairy industry. This is something we need to tackle in a systematic way.”


Serial ID numbers


Traceability expert Caroline Lee from the GS1 standards organisation highlighted how the global supply chain is becoming increasingly complex and international making it vulnerable to fraudsters. “Even packaging is subject to counterfeiting,” she said.  


GS1 standards help to track exactly what is going on with a product throughout the supply chain.

Unique identification with serialised ID numbers gives a great level of detail from transport history to time and date of particular batches of a product. Communication and collaboration is essential, for example, customs authorities can tap into the serial ID data stored in a cloud-based system. If a unique serial ID crops up in two different places it raises a flag that something is suspicious.  

The analytical armoury


Analytical technology to help combat food fraud and adulteration is developing all the time. This includes rapid microbiological methods for detecting pathogens, molecular or genome analysis for tracing the source of contaminations, rapid infrared screening tests to spot abnormalities in milk and dairy products.  But as David Tomas Fornes of the Nestlé research center pointed out, the challenge for food industry is to maximise analytical efficiency while keeping the cost under control. “They have to be faster, easier and cheaper,” he said.


Prevention through proactive measures


Despite advances, analytical technology is not enough alone. Francois Bourdichon, Food Safety Governance Director at Danone said:  “Testing can help, but it is not the whole solution. You have to think like a criminal and anticipate their moves.” Danone has introduced food fraud vulnerability assessment of its supply chain that goes far beyond traditional hazard assessment by including traceability, socio-economic and criminology aspects of the supply chain. This aims to nip potential threats in the bud for example, with education of smaller suppliers at the hard- to-control outer reaches of the chain and financial premiums for those who comply with guidelines.  


Tracking down the criminals


The ability to stop fraudsters in the act has also improved in recent years for example with national initiatives such as the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration flying squad that was set up in 2008 in the wake of a meat scandal involving the sale of out of date frozen meat.  Meanwhile, on a pan-European level, a new EU Food Fraud Network exemplifies the collaborative nature of food fraud defence today. A new IT application assists member states in tracking the activities of criminals across borders. Over 200 fraud cases have been successfully tackled using shared data since the system was set up in 2013.




The full symposium agenda was as follows:


Maintaining the integrity of suppliers´ milk - IDF Guidelines

Claus Heggum, Chief Consultant, Danish Agricultural & Food Council


The power of standards in fighting against counterfeiting in the food sector

Carolyn Lee, Food Traceability Manager, GS1 Global Office, Brussels


Food Authenticity Guidance and Strategies.

Kristie B. Laurvick, MS, Senior Scientific Liaison – Foods Program Unit, U. S. Pharmacopeia


Trends and perspective in rapid detection of microorganisms.

David Tomas Fornes , Microbial & Molecular Analytics, Food Safety & Quality Nestec Ltd. Nestlé Research Center


Chemical residues in milk and milk products– challenges and solutions.

Steve Holroyd, Fonterra Research & Development Centre, New Zealand


Implementation of preventive food fraud measures in the dairy supply chain - a practical example

F. Bourdichon, Food Safety Analytical Governance Director, Danone, France


Tracing food fraud cases – Experience of the Flying Squad of The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration

Michael Rosenmark, Head of Unit, Flying Squad of Danish Veterinary and Food Administration


The EU Food Fraud Network – How Member States cooperate in practice to prevent, detect and fight food fraud.

Filippo Abruzzo, Policy Officer, G5, Health and Consumers Directorate (SANTE), European Commission.

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