In the week that news of Donald Trump’s inauguration filled screens and front pages around the world, the issue of food fraud – which more closely effects food producers, retailers and consumers – continued to make headlines with troubling breaches of laws around supply chain transparency, food safety and product authenticity. This week brought to the spotlight German supermarket giant Aldi, India’s evolving but economically strained rice industry and the importance of supply chain transparency for food safety and ethical sourcing reasons.
Food retail giant Aldi is in the process of recovering from the reputational damage of a food fraud scandal arising from the significant adulteration and mislabelling of their dried oregano range. Aldi and their dried herb supplier, Menora, have agreed to ensure that their oregano range will be 100% free from adulteration, a move which is legally binding in Australia. Securing Industry explains that the court-enforced food integrity agreement arises from a discovery by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) last year that Aldi & Menora’s products were mislabelled.
Aldi’s dried oregano was found to have been mixed with olive and sumac leaves – and by no small measure: in fact, the product contained only 25-35% oregano.
ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, issued a warning to retailers to ‘Check the products you’re selling’ in his statement about the damaging discovery of product adulteration in a reputable supermarket’s range. Aldi will now test their products yearly to avoid being embroiled in another authenticity scandal.
In India, traceability of the supply chain has been used as a solution not only for product authenticity, but also for the prevention of economic loss at export. Economic Times explains that when rice crops are not up to the standards of the countries to which they are being exported – including regulations on the quality, traceability and ethical sourcing of consignments – the loss is transferred back to the producers in India and across Asia.
Chairman of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority, Devender K Singh, said these issues need to be addressed. This will include instituting traceability from the rice paddy to the market and ensuring better returns for the paddy farmers through transparent pricing.
Aside from helping to ensure environmental and economic sustainability, traceability in the supply chain and financial transparency are essential to the process of freezing fraud out of the food industry, according to Dustin Cranor of non-profit oceans advocacy group, Oceana.
“Seafood is a serious global problem that undermines honest businesses and fishermen that play by the rules. It also threatens consumer health and puts our oceans at risk,” Cranor told Food Dive. “Without full-chain traceability for all seafood, consumers will continue to be cheated, hardworking honest fishermen will continue to be undercut, and the long-term productivity of our oceans will continue to be in jeopardy.”
Speaking to CEO of Schuman Cheese, a Britain-based producer, Food Dive noted that while food fraud is only now gaining recognition as a serious crime as well as food safety issue, it is not a new issue.
“There have been various forms of adulteration going on for many years. It probably fell on deaf ears and blind eyes because we didn’t have the type of consumer movement for transparency and for quality that we currently have today,” said Schuman.
As the importance of traceability solutions becomes increasingly apparent to businesses around the world, the role of consumers cannot be ignored: by demanding higher food safety standards and supporting retailers and manufacturers who have adequate standards in place, consumers can join the fight against food fraud.