Brexit – a recipe for food scandal.

Brexit has all the ingredients for the next food scandal: lengthening supply chains, regulatory confusion, and time and cost pressures arising from additional border checks and duties.

From prosciutto originating in Parma or San Daniele to Japan’s legendary Wagyu beef, the truly international array of meat and food to choose from is testament to today’s global market. Yet, nearly half (48%) of British adults say they would be less likely to buy meat if they cannot be sure it has been produced in the UK.

There is much speculation surrounding Britain’s position in relation to the EU Customs Union, but longer, more complex supply chains are a likely outcome. Food will likely cross even more borders and pass through multiple hands on its journey from farm to fork, increasing the risk of counterfeit produce flooding the market. And, as producers try to offset potential time and cost implications resulting from additional border checks and import duties, the lack of supply chain transparency increases the chance of brands inadvertently sponsoring food fraud.

It is not surprising, then, that more than two in five (42%) British adults place food mislabelling and food substitution (48%) among their top three concerns post-Brexit.


A call for clarity.

It’s been five years since the horsemeat scandal demonstrated the sheer scale of food fraud and the relative ease at which it can be committed. Now, 85% of people say they would think twice about buying a brand’s produce if it were found to be involved in food fraud.

Increased consumer awareness signals a long-overdue review of our supply chain processes, transparency and regulation. Transparency is now crucial for consumers, with 70% of British adults saying that knowing where food is produced is an important influencing factor when doing their weekly shop. The difficulty here is that certification, labeling and packaging guarantees demanded by current legislation are as susceptible to counterfeit as the product inside.

From serialisation to blockchain, several solutions are being developed to address this need, providing equal reassurance to both consumers and producers alike. While each of these has their merits, they often rely on the integrity of the people behind them – whether using additives or inputting data. The risk with the former is that product could be tampered with beforehand and, with the latter, that data will be recorded incorrectly (be that accidentally or on purpose).


Forensic traceability.

With all the recent innovations in the supply chain, scientific developments shouldn’t be overlooked. The application of forensic science and statistical modeling can allow us to verify a product’s origin, without relying on the integrity of people or data.

When it comes to produce, the only absolute truth lies within the product itself and the unique chemical profile that product owes to the distinct environment it was grown or reared in. Oritain test these unique properties, creating a specific fingerprint for a product’s origin, and then use this fingerprint to verify the origin of that product at any point throughout the supply chain. With the many complexities and variables in a supply chain, the one thing that remains consistent is the product. A product-focused verification method, therefore, negates all other supply chain variables and provides a more robust answer to consumer demands.

And with consumers willing to pay a premium for assurances about their food (49% of British adults say they would pay more for food that has had its place of origin verified by an independent third party), it pays to be certain of your product’s origin.

By Grant Cochrane | Posted: Thursday September 6, 2018