It’s time for fixed definitions for food fraud and food integrity

We need a food supply system that produces safe food, produces nutritious food, and also produces authentic food, which is free of fraudulent activity.

Dr Chris Elliot

Food fraud is the intentional adulteration of food for financial gain. This can include deliberate substitution, dilution, counterfeiting, or misrepresentation of food, ingredients or packaging; or even false or misleading statements made about a product. All these examples of fraud can have a negative impact on the quality and safety aspects of foods. They can also damage consumer confidence and harm food businesses.


FAO HQ Rome, Italy


Dr Chris Elliot

At a recent session of the FAO/WHO Coordinating Committee for the Near East, Dr Chris Elliot, Vice-Chancellor in the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences at Belfast University spoke about the current situation and gave his advice on how Codex can contribute to controlling and combating fraud in the food chain.

“In my experience, virtually every type of food is subject to some form of fraud”, said Dr Elliot. “The more complex the supply chains are, the more processed foods are, the more fraud opportunities there are”, he added.


Dr Elliot spoke about the need for developing countries to begin a process of education: “Educating the food industries …, educating governments …, about what measures have to be taken to deter food fraud.”

Where does fraud take place?

“In terms of where the fraud happens, it can happen at various stages,” explained Elliot. “It can happen during the primary production, on the processing, but often it happens during the storage and transportation.” With foods travelling before processing there are “multiple points of vulnerability” he said.

The smaller the company, the more difficult it gets

Small businesses are advised to always think where they are sourcing materials and that appropriate checks and measures are in place. Large industry can support this process by ensuring their suppliers are regularly audited.

Dr Chris Elliot talks about responsibilities for a safe food supply system and calls for Codex to work on an international definition of fraud.

Technology will play an enormous role

In the battle to deter food fraud “technology will play an enormous role”, Elliot said. The use of things like block chain technology and the use of smartphone diagnostics will be “fantastic tools to give the food production industry” so auditors and people from regulatory authorities can “go out and test where food is being produced”. 



©FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri / FAO
©FAO/Vyacheslav Oseledko / FAO
© Roberto Sciotti
Video montage Bin Han

News date
Updated on: 18-08-2016
New Chair and Vice-Chairs to focus on strengthening participation in Codex
29 Aug 2017 - 
Rome Tuesday 29th August 2017 In a letter to all member countries sent via the six Regional  [...]
CAC40 Chairperson’s Side Event
22 Jul 2017 - 
Ms Awilo Ochieng Pernet, Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, opened the last side event  [...]
The science that leads to Codex food safety standards
21 Jul 2017 - 
Two officers illustrated for the Codex Alimentarius Commission, during its 40th session, the way FAO  [...]
Should Codex set standards for alcoholic beverages?
21 Jul 2017 - 
The World Health Organization (WHO) led a side event at the 40th Session of the  [...]
Whole-genome sequencing – the future of food safety detection?
21 Jul 2017 - 
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) together with the World Health Organization (WHO) led a  [...]