By Amy Au

Food adulteration is the act of intentionally debasing the quality of food offered for sale either by the admixture or substitution of inferior substances or by the removal of some valuable ingredient. Perhaps the most prolific example of food adulteration was seen in the adulteration of processed beef products with horse and pork meat back in 2013.

The Food Standards Agency defines adulteration as a ‘food crime’. Food crime is serious fraud that impacts the safety or the authenticity of food, drink or animal feed. It is the Food Standards Agency’s National Food Crime Unit (NFCU), who work to prevent, detect and investigate food crime across the UK.

Whilst this instance is not a food safety concern, it does bring to the fore once again the need for consumers to be able to trust retailers to take every precaution that they are not selling unadulterated food.

According to a list drawn up the EU Committee on the Environment, Public Health and FoodSafety it is the following products that are most commonly subject to fraud: fish, grains, honey, coffee, tea, spices, wine, milk and meat.

With food chains becoming more and more complicated, it is proving difficult to ensure the efficacy of supply chains when there may be 40 or 50 businesses involved in the production and distribution of a single product. However, the prevention of food adulteration is arguably more important now than ever, especially given that the National Food Crime Unit’s new chief, Darren Davies, wants to see firms that fraudulently use cheaper substitutes to be criminally prosecuted.

The law relating to food standards can be complicated and is made up of various elements of EU and National legislation, including EU Regulation 178/2002, The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 and Offences by the Food Safety Act 1990. If you are retailer concerned with any of your obligations under the various laws, you should seek advice and review the relevant legislation.