The Impact of the Horse Meat Scandal on the Food Industry

The horse meat Food Fraud incident exposes a big vulnerability in the supply chain: all the best analytics and logistical optimization doesn’t help if the product is bad. While many fraudsters are unsophisticated and opportunistic, others thoroughly examine the entire network from re-packaging through quality control testing. Both the horse meat and past melamine incidents circumvented the food protection systems… possibly for years.

To be clear, the Food Safety and Food Defense systems did not “fail” because “failure” is defined as not achieving a set of stated goals. Food Fraud was never explicitly in the goals of those systems. Those systems are designed to identify unintentional or intentional public health threats.  That said, this most recent scandal highlights the importance of a more explicit Food Fraud agenda.

Horse meat Food Fraud may be the watershed moment for the creation of Food Fraud as a discipline for several reasons, including:

  1. scholars have clearly defined the risks and terms in academic publications,
  2. there is increasing awareness of the problem and prevention options by industry and agencies (and consumers!),
  3. there are improved traceability ability and testing availability,
  4. public and private regulations are being enacted (the Food Safety Modernization Act and the Global Food Safety Initiative are raising the profile of Food Fraud on the global stage), and
  5. a global trigger incident (horse meat Food Fraud).

The fraudsters are stealthy, clandestine, patient, opportunistic, and often go to great lengths to circumvent our systems to avoid detection. While the horse meat incident is the crisis, the root cause is inherent Food Fraud vulnerability of the supply chain. Fortunately there are often  simple steps to significantly reduce the vulnerability… the first step is awareness of the problem.  Help us expand the awareness of the problem and to form a public forum to improve best practices. Share your comments, sign up for our updates, and register for our Food Fraud Prevention MOOCs.

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