The FSA and CIEH have recently released some excellent documents full of practical guidance for the food and drink industry on ways they can reduce their risk from food fraud and help to tackle food crime. As highlighted in our previous blogs Food fraud: Can we really trust the food on our plates and Food fraud: What’s the real reason for the increase in food recall, food fraud is a threat at large for the food and drink industry. Fraudulent activity can take many forms, from businesses receiving adulterated or substituted products, incorrect provenance, to fictitious companies receiving goods on credit and then disappearing. There are practical steps that any business can take, highlighted in the documents, which can reduce the risk of this occurring. An increasingly important issue, given the growing number of incidents and their potential to undermine legitimate businesses, affect wider health, economy and consumer confidence, and damage the reputations and profits of any business falling victim to fraud.
The FSA guidance takes a look at the role of the National Food Crime Unit (NCFU) and the ways it can support industry and in turn how industry can support the Unit. The aim of the Unit is ‘to be regarded by consumers, government and industry as a proactive, innovative and professional capability and an asset to the overall law enforcement in the UK.’ Their strategy focuses on four broad themes of activity: Prevent, Protect, Prepare and Protect.
The key message from the NCFU is that the most effective way to reduce and tackle food crime is by working together – the NCFU, industry and third party consultancies. These different bodies each have access to different pieces of information on food crime which will be most powerful when combined.
It is clear that the Unit is there to support the legitimate food industry and consumers. But, it is also clear they need information from all parties to be successful. Out of the different ways they suggest we can support their work, it is the ones about encouraging awareness of the issue and vigilance amongst staff, and the need to report issues, which immediately stand out to us. Have you been a victim of a food crime? Have you or your staff come across anything suspicious, unexpected or unusual in relation to food? If so, Shield Safety would encourage you to report this to the NFCU call 0207 276 8787 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CIEH have developed a range of resources to help businesses tackle food fraud and improve fraud resilience and reduce its financial and reputational cost.
This includes a free to download Counter Fraud Good Practice for Food and Drink Businesses which very much complements the FSA guidance, and has a Foreword from Andy Morling, Head of Food Crime for the FSA.
‘It is not enough simply to ask the question ‘can I see fraud within my business?’ Fraud, by its very nature, seeks to remain hidden. It is only through the development of a proportionate counter fraud strategy, underpinned by specific processes to detect and address fraud, that a food business will be able to protect itself and its customers.’
This document mirrors the key message from the NCFU about the need for collaboration, whilst also looking for businesses to be proactive rather than reactive. It also gives a clear layout of practical Steps, Activities and Good Practice a business could follow to improve their resilience, and detect and deter fraudsters. Similar to the FSA document, it advocates developing an anti-fraud culture with staff and suppliers to act as a deterrent, and to equip staff with the awareness and confidence to report issues.
The package includes a more in-depth Industry Guide: Countering Guide developed with counter fraud specialists aimed at helping businesses address and prevent food fraud. The document leads with the worrying fact that despite the issue being a priority for both industry and regulators, 97% of food fraud is going undetected and supply chains open to fraud may be more vulnerable to food safety threats.
Shield Safety views
Years of supporting the food industry with compliance and helping companies prevent or deal with incidents, Shield Safety fully supports the guidance pieces and their important messages about vigilance, reporting, resilience and the need to work together.
Our Strategic Advisor, former Head of Local Delivery for the FSA, John Barnes emphasises the significance of these, especially for the hospitality industry.
‘Any business asking themselves how they can reduce their risk from food fraud, would do well to read the guidance. The hospitality industry is actually on the front line here with many fraud incidents occurring in this sector from intentional actions by staff or rogue suppliers. Developing a culture of awareness and vigilance on the issue, and encouraging staff to report anything suspicious is a very practical step that any business could and should take.’
Should you need further support when tackling food crime, we have a range of services to help including Safety Advice Line, Sampling and Supplier Audits. Don’t struggle alone, call 0203 740 3744 or email email@example.com for more information.
The information contained in this blog article has been created for marketing purposes and is not official guidance and should not be used as a substitute for official Food Safety, Fire Safety and Health & Safety advice. Shield Safety take no responsibility if the information in the blog article is used to form part of a safety management system or used to form part of any legal or regulatory compliance for your business. For official guidance and to engage with Shield Safety services please do call our team on 020 3740 3744 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.