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Feb 15, 2019

“What do you mean, the label doesn’t say it all?”

Food fraud can be committed with tools as simple as a printer and some stickers

Food fraud at your dinner table

You might have read the statistics. Food fraud costs the food industry more than $69 billion every year. Testing reveals one in five seafood samples are mislabelled around the world. Up to 10 per cent of global food trade is subject to fraud. And so on.

But what does this mean for you?

Food fraud isn’t just the food bloggers claiming their turmeric lattes will cure heart disease. Food fraud is the much more confronting issue of an industry riddled with false descriptions, false health claims, substitution, concealment and artificial enhancements.

Trust, transparency and traceability

These are the expectations people have from our food producers.

In the minds of many consumers, Australian agriculture is not a contentious subject. Some would even call it boring. But the issues in the agricultural industry go far beyond the stale arguments over organics and genetic modification.

The Australian honey industry experienced a food fraud crisis in 2018.

How can the honey I buy be an adulterated mix of rice and sugar syrups when it says it’s pure honey on the label? Why can’t I trust the list of ingredients on the pet food for my puppy? How can I be sure the extra virgin olive oil I use isn’t diluted with cheaper oils?

Australians are starting to ask these questions, and the answers are leaving a bad taste in their mouths. For Australian growers, manufacturers, brands and retailers, it is a massive risk.

A way forward

We still don’t know the full extent of food fraud in Australia. The increasingly alarming issue is plaguing our agricultural sector and tarnishing the ‘Made in Australia’ brand.

Understanding the seriousness of this is the first step towards resolving it. Porter Novelli’s Agribusiness Breakfast brought several experts together to discuss how we can combat these threats. We’re looking at a future with more robust tracking, tracing and anti-counterfeit technologies to better protect farmers, manufacturers and consumers from the threat of Food Fraud.

Right now, a ten-year old with a black-and-white printer and some labels can commit effective food fraud in developing markets. Hopefully in the future, they’ll need a lot more than that.