Defining the Public Health Threat of Food Fraud

Authors

  • John Spink,

    1. Authors are with Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program (A-CAPPP), School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, Mich. 48864, U.S.A. and Program in Public Health, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, Mich. 48864, U.S.A. Direct inquiries to author Spink (E-mail: SpinkJ@msu.edu).
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  • Douglas C. Moyer

    1. Authors are with Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program (A-CAPPP), School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, Mich. 48864, U.S.A. and Program in Public Health, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, Mich. 48864, U.S.A. Direct inquiries to author Spink (E-mail: SpinkJ@msu.edu).
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Abstract

Abstract:  Food fraud, including the more defined subcategory of economically motivated adulteration, is a food risk that is gaining recognition and concern. Regardless of the cause of the food risk, adulteration of food is both an industry and a government responsibility. Food safety, food fraud, and food defense incidents can create adulteration of food with public health threats. Food fraud is an intentional act for economic gain, whereas a food safety incident is an unintentional act with unintentional harm, and a food defense incident is an intentional act with intentional harm. Economically motivated adulteration may be just that—economically motivated—but the food-related public health risks are often more risky than traditional food safety threats because the contaminants are unconventional. Current intervention systems are not designed to look for a near infinite number of potential contaminants. The authors developed the core concepts reported here following comprehensive research of articles and reports, expert elicitation, and an extensive peer review. The intent of this research paper is to provide a base reference document for defining food fraud—it focuses specifically on the public health threat—and to facilitate a shift in focus from intervention to prevention. This will subsequently provide a framework for future quantitative or innovative research. The fraud opportunity is deconstructed using the criminology and behavioral science applications of the crime triangle and the chemistry of the crime. The research provides a food risk matrix and identifies food fraud incident types. This project provides a starting point for future food science, food safety, and food defense research.

Practical Application:  Food fraud, including the more defined subcategory of economically motivated adulteration, is a food protection threat that has not been defined or holistically addressed. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, led to the development of food defense as an autonomous area of study and a new food protection discipline. As economically motivated adulteration grows in scope, scale, and awareness, it is conceivable that food fraud will achieve the same status as an autonomous concept, between food safety and food defense. This research establishes a starting point for defining food fraud and identifying the public health risks.

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