INSPECTION specialist Mettler-Toledo has warned that the rise in sourcing more of our food online could “open the floodgates” for more unsafe counterfeit products unless the industry takes action.
“Counterfeit food is a growing problem worldwide, driven in part by the explosion of the digital marketplace. Anyone can set up shop as a ‘legitimate’ salesperson online, offering foodstuffs for sale without much in the way of regulation,” said spokesperson Joanna Mooberry. “Ironically, our desire for healthier food and the rise of the celebrity chef are creating new targets for the fraudsters. Consumers want access to the ingredients featured on television, but do not know where to purchase them locally – so they use online resources to find the items they want.”
Mettler-Toledo said the fight against food fraud needs to begin at the processing and packaging stage. Joanna added, “Serialisation and track and trace techniques have proved highly effective in combating fraud in other industries like pharmaceuticals. In the food industry, investment has been limited to high value items like caviar, where producers use a universal labelling system to prove authenticity and that the caviar was obtained legally. This approach has significant benefits, both in maintaining sustainability and protecting consumers from the consequences of counterfeit goods.
“The continued growth in food fraud indicates that it is time to apply the same traceability techniques to spices, meat products, olive oil and wine, where counterfeiting is an enormous issue and safety is paramount.”