We are honored that the World Health Organization (WHO) used and cited our definitions of both food fraud and food defense. It is significant that food fraud has become a topic inherent in food safety and food control systems.
WHO Global Food Safety Strategy for 2022-2030 report – SUMMARY
This is the third ten-year Food Safety Strategy report published by the World Health Organization (WHO). The 2022-2030 version updates the previous 2002-2012 and 2013-2022 reports. It is significant because, for the first time, food fraud is mentioned in these strategy reports. Food fraud is not only mentioned but also presented as a critical global health consideration. In addition, the strategy builds upon previous WHO reports that have steadily increased the focus on food fraud prevention and, specifically, the emphasis on starting by conducting vulnerability assessments.
There are several quotes in the report that emphasize or define the importance of food fraud prevention:
Food fraud prevention and food authenticity are crucial parts of food safety standards.
- “Safe food is a primary determinant of human health. It is a basic human right to access safe, nutritious, healthy food. To guarantee this right, governments must ensure that available food meets safety standards.”
- “Unsafe food and incapacity to properly address food safety events undermine public confidence in a country’s food safety system and the responsible, competent authorities.”
- “[The food laws] need significant improvements in their key components such as regulatory infrastructure, enforcement and surveillance, food inspection and laboratory capacity and capability, coordination mechanisms to prevent and manage events, and food safety education and training.”
Food fraud is a component of many of the key focus areas of the strategy.
- “Drivers of Change in Food Safety:
- Interests and demands for safe food (the need for more food),
- Global food safety threats (“the impact of events including ‘adulteration of infant formula with melamine [food fraud]’”),
- Global changes and their impact on the food supply chain (consumer habits and supply changes including impact of food fraud),
- Environmental challenges,
- Society: Changing expectations and behavior around food (including e-commerce and food delivery),
- Rise of new technologies and digital transformation, and
- Demographic changes.”
“Global food safety threats: Many food safety events and emergencies have resulted in national and global changes in food systems, food supply chains, and food safety regulations. Examples of such events include variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease causing bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle, adulteration of infant formula with melamine [food fraud], dioxin contamination of animal feed and multi-country outbreaks of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and hepatitis A associated with contaminated seed sprouts and frozen berries respectively. All the aforementioned examples provoked changes in food systems and regulations. Additionally, a global public health focus on AMR and recognition of the potential of the food and agricultural production system as a contributing factor is already resulting in shifts in agricultural practice, improved intersectoral collaboration, surveillance and data sharing, and exploration of regulatory requirements for the future.”
Two Sections where food fraud is a key component.
Food fraud is a crucial component in several of the strategic objectives. It is essential to realize that food fraud is not only recognized as a ‘thing’ but also an essential part of competent food safety controls.
First, it is recognized that food fraud incidents can create a lack of confidence in the food supply, which could lead to a loss of local and export sales, reduced agricultural production, reduced availability of food, and a loss of jobs.
- Strategic objective 2.2: “Adapt risk management options to emerging foodborne risks brought about by transformation and changes in global food systems and food movement.” “Evidence of food fraud on a global scale may cause substantial shifts in trade flows of food and stimulate food safety authorities to generally strengthen national food safety systems in terms of traceability of foods.”
Second, there is an awareness that a market that attempts to create higher-value products would increase food fraud opportunities. There is an emphasis on prevention as part of the product and market development process, starting with understanding the fraud opportunity (e.g., supply chain mapping, venerability assessments, and hot spot analysis).
- Strategic objective 5.2: “Strengthen interaction between national agencies responsible for domestic food safety and those facilitating international fair-trading practices.” “Entry of new high-value foods into the market or foods sold in large quantities can create a strong incentive for adulteration for commercial gain [food fraud], especially in internationally traded foods.” “[Avoiding supply chain disruptions from a food fraud incident] is best achieved by establishing a formal structure for the collection and analysis of intelligence and information from a range of sources to enable the preparation of detailed strategic assessments to identify food fraud threats, risks, and vulnerabilities.”
WHO Global Food Safety Strategy for 2022-2030 report – DEFINITIONS
Food fraud and food defense are listed in the glossary and definitions are posted in sidebar entries. When considering the harms, the term “terrorism” is mentioned twice in the report as a type of food defense incident.
- Food fraud (sidebar): any suspected intentional action committed when an FBO intentionally decides to deceive customers about the quality and/ or content of the food they are purchasing in order to gain an undue advantage, usually economic gains, for themselves (21).
- (Citing: 21. Spink J, Embarek PB, Savelli CJ, Bradshaw A. Global perspectives on food fraud: results from a WHO survey of members of the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN). npj Science of Food. 2019; 3:12. (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41538-019-0044-x).
- Food defense (glossary & sidebar): This is the effort to protect food from an intentional act on a food system, such as on a product, processing plant, or farm, which is intended to pose a public health threat, such as malicious tampering or terrorism (22).
- (Citing: 22. Adapted from: Spink J, Embarek PB, Savelli CJ, Bradshaw A. Global perspectives on food fraud: results from a WHO survey of members of the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN). npj Science of Food. 2019; 3:12. (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41538-019-0044-x)
Note, the term ‘risk’ is defined here as only a negative event, not the more traditional ISO 31000 definition of uncertainty that could be positive or negative. In a food safety context, the risks that can be controlled are only the negative or downside events.:
- Risk (glossary): This is a function of the probability of an adverse health effect and the severity of that effect, consequential to a hazard(s) in food (50). (Citing: 50. Procedural Manual. Definitions for the Codex Alimentarius. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/World Health Organization Codex Alimentarius; 2001 (https://www.fao.org/3/Y2200E/y2200e07.htm#TopOfPage). xxx)
- Vulnerability (glossary): This is not defined in the glossary or the report.
- Prevention (glossary): This is not defined in the glossary or the report.
Our Cited Publication
The cited article was created after my 2016 presentation in Singapore on Food Fraud Global Trends at the INFOSAN Annual Conference, hosted by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN). During the conference, there was a debate about whether or not food fraud should be an issue covered in the WHO/ FAN/ INFOSAN scope. I proposed that instead of debating the question, we could conduct a survey to hear directly from the member countries. INFOSAN distributed the survey to the key point contact in the member countries. The result was the foundation for our article.
“This survey of International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) members regarding food fraud prevention, management, education, and information sharing included 166 WHO member states, resulting in 175 responses. The respondents engage in food fraud prevention (70%) or are responsible for food fraud incident response (74%). Nearly all respondents acknowledged a desire for more guidance and information on best practices in managing the full range of “food safety events involving food fraud” (97%), but also for prevention of such events (97%), indicating a need to provide technical support beyond acute incident response. The scope of food fraud covered in the survey comprised the full range of fraudulent activities, including the addition of adulterant-substances, tampering (including mislabeling), theft, smuggling, gray market/diversion, and counterfeiting (intellectual property rights). Key needs included: capacity-building/education; a platform for information sharing; and utilization of INFOSAN as an interagency/intergovernmental collaboration point.”
Regarding the application of the WHO Recommended Direction for Food Fraud Prevention:
- Our past INFOSAN co-authored article is recognized as a starting point definition for global activities, including the Global Food Safety Strategy for 2022-2030.
- It is becoming a common recommendation to conduct vulnerability assessments that include all types of food fraud. Also, there is an understanding that prevention includes considering factors beyond public health to include trade and economic impact.
- Food fraud is a unique problem that has an impact on public health and food science. Still, the prevention focus is rooted in other disciplines, such as criminology and supply chain management – the same food safety methods and procedures identify the health impact. Still, an interdisciplinary approach is required to reduce the root cause of the problems.
- WHO (2022). Global Strategy for Food Safety 2022-2030, World Health Organization, 86 pages, URL: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240057685
- Spink, John; Embarek Peter Ben; Joseph Savelli, Carmen; & Bradshaw, Adam (2019). Global perspectives on food fraud: results from a WHO survey of members of the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN), Science of Food Journal (NPJ, Nature), 3(12), pages 1-12
- Notes:(CiteScore 7.4; Scopus SJR 1.948; ISI pending; 96% (15/448) Animal Science and Zoology; Altmetric Online Attention 19) [Accepted 12/05/2018]; Co-author Affiliation: Embarek, Savelli, & Bradshaw – World Health Organization/ INFOSAN. (Note Nov-2022 Regarding Altmetric: “This article is in the 88th percentile (ranked 26,395th) of the 225,993 tracked articles of a similar age in all journals and … ranked 1st of articles of a similar age in npj Science of Food).