ANNOUNCEMENT – Food Fraud Terminology Survey Research a Top 10 Most-Downloaded Article

Our “International Survey of Food Fraud and Related Terminology” journal article was one of the top 10 – not just top ten percent – most-downloaded articles for the Journal of Food Science. This is especially rewarding since governments, industry, and associations have used the article.

To start, I’m so grateful for the encouragement and camaraderie of my co-authors. I remember Brian Bedard mentioning this project idea at an IAFP conference, I believe it was in Tampa in 2017. The team expanded to include Brian Bedard, John Keogh, Douglas Moyer, Joe Scimeca, Akhila Vasan, and Lawrence Goodridge.

Publishing in a scholarly journal takes a lot of effort, and being cited is an honor. Being a top-cited or downloaded article is very satisfying because it means our effort is making a difference in the direction of food fraud prevention.

The Journal of Food Science (JFS) is a highly ranked, reviewed scholarly journal. This journal has extra significance since it is published by the Institute of Food Technologists, one of the top three food-related professional associations with over 12,000 members from over 1,000 countries. For scholars interested in the specification, this is a Scopus-listed journal in the 74% percentile with a rank of 86 out of 388 in Food Science/ Agriculture (also, CiteScore 5.1, SNIP 1.064, and SJR 0.6543). The article has been cited 24 times in other Scopus journals, which contributes to our author h-Index (for an author, an h-index of 24 means that there have been 24 articles cited at least 24 times – relatively, this is a high number of citations).

The publication of our food fraud terminology survey research article in JFS is significant since, about ten years earlier, they published our article “Defining the Public Health Threat of Food Fraud”.

Previous reviews of food fraud terminology – including our previous works – were literature reviews that included summaries by the researchers. As far as we know, this was the first research project that surveyed the users and asked more detailed questions about the interaction between the different terms. We received over 150 responses from a targeted group of practitioners and experts working in food fraud prevention from governments, organizations, industry, and academia.

Looking back, the peer reviewed, refereed, scholarly article is still timely since there are a few definitions that deal with questions the food industry is currently asking questions. Specifically, there is often confusion about compliance to GFSI, FSMA (the entire regulation) and FSMA-IA (the Intentional adulteration final rule). While all three use the term ‘food defense’ they each have a little different scope. Other related terms also help us understand the focus of activities.

  • Food Defense (GFSI): Protect against intentional acts that have intent to harm.
    • Long definition: “The process to ensure the security of food and drink and their supply chains from all forms of intentional malicious attack including ideologically motivated attack leading to contamination or supply failure” (GFSI, 2017).
  • Food Defense (FSMA-IA): Protecting against “wide-scale [human] health harm”—or essentially the health hazards from food terrorism.
    • Long definition: “Food defense means, for purposes of this part [FSMA-IA], the effort to protect food from intentional acts of adulteration where there is an intent to cause wide-scale public health harm” (FSMA, 2016).
  • Food Protection (FDA, 2007): Address food safety and food defense (including food fraud/ EMA) (FDA, 2007).
    • Long definition: “A Food Protection Plan (the Plan) that addresses both food safety and food defense for domestic and imported products. … Address both unintentional and deliberate contamination” (FDA, 2007).
  • Food Security (WHO, 2009): Enough supply of acceptable food (WHO, 2009).
    • Long definition: “…exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Household food security is the application of this concept to the family level, with individuals within households as the focus of concern” (WHO, 2009).

While the above food security definition is common knowledge for seasoned food safety professionals, it’s always important to mention it when discussing food fraud and defense. Non-food professionals – such as law enforcement, corporate security, general business consultants, or information technology teams – often misapply “food security” to mean the protection of the food and not the continuous supply of food. So, at least make sure you use the food security term properly!

Also, from ‘An International Survey of Food Fraud and Related Terminology’, there are a few points that add more clarity to the question of scope. To start, before FSMA, FDA considered food fraud/ EMA to be a subcategory under ‘food defense.’ Later the common use of ‘food defense’ followed the FSMA-IA rule to narrow to only “widescale human public health harm” but broader than “terrorism.” To note, throughout the FSMA act, the many mentions of “…including acts of terrorism” serve as a reminder that the FSMA scope is broader than traditional and more frequent food safety issues.

  • “Although there are multiple conflicting definitions of food defense, the pre-FSMA FDA original scope to encompass all types of intentional acts including terrorism, malicious tampering, disgruntled employees and economically motivated adulteration [and food fraud]” (FDA 2011). The US Food Safety Modernization Act final rule for Intentional Adulteration narrowed the FDA Food Defense focus to “wide-scale human public health harm” (FSMA 2016). EMA [including food fraud] was moved to the FSMA Preventive Controls Rule (FSMA-OC). The survey responses are presented.”

Takeaway Points

  • As governments and industry were expanding their focus, reviewing the use of food fraud and related terms was timely.
  • It was timely and especially valuable to expand the literature review-based research (authors researching and providing a summary) to surveys of practitioners (ask the users to provide data for the summary).
  • Food fraud is clearly understood as a separate food integrity topic alongside food quality, safety, and defense.

Reference: for convenience, the abstract of the article is provided here:

Title: International Survey of Food Fraud and Related Terminology: Preliminary Results and Discussion, Journal

Year: 2019

Authors: Spink, John, Bedard, Brian, Bruner, Leon, Keogh, John, Scimeca, Joseph, Goodridge, Lawrence, Moyer, Douglas C, & Vasan, Akila

Journal: Journal of Food Science (published by the Institute of Food Technologists – IFT)


The  food industry is advancing rapidly, and consumer sensitivity to food safety scares and food fraud scandals is further amplified by rapid communication such as by social media. Academia, regulators, and industry practitioners alike struggle with an evolving issue regarding new terms and definitions including food fraud, food authenticity, food integrity, food protection, economically motivated adulteration, food crime, food security, contaminant, adulterant, and others. This research addressed some of the global need for clarification and harmonization of commonly used terminology. The 150 survey responses were received from various food-related workgroups or committee members, communication with recognized experts, and announcements to the food industry in general. Overall food fraud was identified as a “food safety” issue (86%). The food quality and manufacturing respondents focused mainly on incoming goods and adulterant-substances (<50%) rather than the other illegal activities such as counterfeiting, theft, gray market/diversion, and smuggling. Of the terms included to represent “intentional deception for economic gain” the respondents generally agreed with food fraud as the preferred term. Overall, the preference was 50% “food fraud,” 15% “economically motivated adulteration” EMA, 9% “food protection,” 7% “food integrity,” 5% “food authenticity,” and 2% “food crime.” It appears that “food protection” and “food integrity” are terms that cover broader concepts such as all types of intentional acts and even possibly food safety or food quality. “Food authenticity” was defined with the phrase “to ensure” so seemed to be identified as an “attribute” that helped define fraudulent acts.

Practical Application

Food Fraud—illegal deception for economic gain using food—is a rapidly evolving research topic and is facing confusion due to the use of different terms and definitions. This research survey presented common definitions and publication details to gain insight that could help provide clarity. The insight from this report provides guidance for others who are harmonizing terminology and setting the overall strategic direction.

Scroll to Top