REVIEW – Food Fraud Joint Nordic Assessment Report and Workshops

This post reviews the ‘Food Fraud Joint Nordic Assessment Report’ and workshops. This is one of the top region or country-level food fraud vulnerability assessments. Our research helped shape the direction, and we participated in the workshops.

Our recent blog posts have reviewed some of the world’s leading government reports on food fraud prevention.

  • REQUEST: If you think there are other important food fraud-related government reports we have not covered, please send them to us at [email protected].
  • Reference: Nordic Council of Ministers, Food Fraud Joint Nordic Threat Assessment Report, 2022, Authors: Report written by a joint Nordic working group with representatives from Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Authors: Keren Bar-Yaacov, Ida Siri Berntsen Svinddal, Louise Andreasen, Anette Løvenkjær-Pearson, Herdis Gudjonsdottir, Aron Lindén, and Henrik Borsch; URL:

Geography Lesson: Nordic vs. Scandinavian Regions

Over the years, I have interacted with many colleagues from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and northern Europe. That said, I will admit that the first thing I did when I was invited to this event was to research the difference between ‘Nordic’ and ‘Scandinavian.’ Note: all the Nordic countries were involved in the workshops, but only the Scandinavian countries published vulnerability assessments.

  • Nordic: Countries including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Greenland, Faroe Islands, and Aland.
  • Scandinavian: Countries including Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

Nordic Food Fraud Assessment Project

I’m pleased we were invited to present and participate in the workshops. It is fantastic for us to be involved during the planning and start-up phase of projects like this because we can provide insight and get first-hand experience on the process. Usually, we find a new research question or a need for a unique summary of previous concepts. This report did mention: “The Food Fraud Vulnerability Concept, which assesses the threat of food fraud based on opportunities, motivation, and supervisory measures. [This concept] assesses the threat from a socioeconomic perspective and a risk matrix inspired by John Spink, USA, which was developed for vulnerability assessments for the industry, in which impact and probability are linked.”

My interaction with the authors of this report started at the 2017 GFSI annual meeting in Houston. Over the years, we have also crossed paths at the EU Food Integrity Project and INTERPOL/ Europol Operation OPSON events. We stayed in touch, and they took me up on my offer to “invite me to your country!” Specifically, I have had the most contact over the years with Keren Bar-Yaacov (Norway), Louise Andreasen (Denmark), and Anette Løvenkjær-Pearson (Denmark).

Nordic Food Fraud Workshops: Copenhagen and Reykjavik

I was invited to present at the Copenhagen workshop in 2018. Then my colleague Dr. Roy Fenoff (Researcher, Food Fraud Prevention Think Tank & Associate Professor, The Citadel College) was invited and presented in Reykjavik. Our role was to present the overall Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment (FFVA) concept, including the initial screening or pre-filter activity. Then, we followed up with the connection to a management system and a prevention strategy.

Our presentations at the 2018 workshops:

  • Spink, John W., Michigan State University (and Food Fraud Prevention Think Tank), USA, Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment and Prevention Strategy, Seminar, Copenhagen, December 2018
  • Spink, John W., Michigan State University (and Food Fraud Prevention Think Tank), USA, Food Fraud Prevention Best Practices and Implementation, Seminar, Copenhagen, December 2018
  • Fenoff, Roy, The Citadel (and Food Fraud Prevention Think Tank), Food Fraud Prevention Assessment of Vulnerabilities and Prioritizing Resource Allocation, Seminar, Reykjavik, December 2019.

Report Insights and Findings – Use of Terms

An entire section is dedicated to reviewing the use of terms. As I found out later, there are five languages or dialects across this region. Creating a common and calibrated set of terms is the most important starting point:

  • “A glossary for the joint Nordic effort to combat fraud and deception in the food production chain.”
  • “The terms we highlight should reflect the terms normally used in each country and are not intended as a direct translation of the terms from English.”
  • Food Fraud: “suspected intentional action by businesses or individuals for the purpose of deceiving purchasers and gaining undue advantage therefrom, in violation of the rules referred to in Article 1 (2) of Regulation (EU) 2017/625.”

The terms were presented across the five languages or dialects (Table). It is interesting to note that even though these are classified as of Northern Germanic origin, the technical terms in each of the five languages are often very different. As we found in our translation research in Chinese/ Mandarin, Russian, and Korean, a single English term sometimes needs several terms in another language. It was especially interesting to see so many terms to define tampering.

Table: Presentation of Food Fraud-Related Terms across the five languages or dialects
Figure: Risk Map – An example of the common processes since this is a universally implemented style.

Report Insights and Findings – Assessment by Products

The Nordic Council of Ministers funded this project because of an economic and public health concern for several product groups. The assessment exercise provided more clarity on the extent of the problem and also on the root causes. By focusing on root causes presented in many case studies, there can be a coordinated, optimal approach to food fraud prevention. The findings include the following food fraud vulnerability ranks:

  • Raw materials of animal origin
    • Overall assessment: Moderate to High
  • Fish and seafood
    • Overall assessment: Moderate to High
  • Declaration of Nordic origin
    • Overall assessment: Moderate to High
  • Declaration of organic production
    • Overall assessment: High

If you manufacture, process, or source food products from Nordic countries, these are key products to prioritize in your Food Fraud Prevention Strategy.

Report Insights and Findings – Conclusions

Of course, the overall result was that the Scandinavian and Nordic region has a common list of the most concerning problems and their root causes. The joint assessment activity was an excellent way for the Scandinavian region to create a common food fraud prevention process. This project has created an environment where there will be more efficient and effective fraud prevention activities. Beyond creating the common processes, this activity went beyond just ‘getting to know each other’ and led to building action-oriented working relationships. Overall, the Scandinavian and Nordic regions have an opportunity to create one of the most coordinated regional food fraud prevention strategies – I stress ‘opportunity’ because now the real hard work begins, which is implementation and ongoing management.

The activities in year five to year ten and beyond will define the real success.

Takeaway Points

  • As we often mention, the food industry needs to understand what food fraud risks or products are being reviewed by governments.
  • Significantly, there is an emerging global harmonization of the terminology and processes for addressing food fraud prevention. By using common terms and processes, there can be a more efficient and effective sharing of best practices and easier coordination of activities.
  • You will increase your ability to communicate using common terms and processes with governments. Fortunately, our MOOC programs and research concepts are aligned with government activities and our work is often a reference and source.
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