covid-19 (22)

Facing up to food fraud in a pandemic

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The global disruption caused by COVID‐19 has, and will continue to have, a generic impact on the likelihood of many food fraud risks. It is important that food businesses keep their vulnerability assessments and risk management plans under continual review in light of ‘COVID‐effects’ to assess whether they apply to their own supply chain. These effects are layered onto existing macro‐economic trends, such as the increase in plant‐based foods, direct online sales and supply shortages due to conflict or climatic events.

In this article, John Points and Louise Manning, both members of the IFST's COVID‐19 Advisory Group, assess the evidence for an increase in food fraud as a result of the COVID‐19 pandemic and conclude that:

It is very difficult to obtain objective evidence of the incidence of food fraud in a specific sector, or to determine objective trends. Evidence based on reported incidence is fraught with caveats and needs to be interpreted with care. These caveats notwithstanding, there is no evidence within the Horizonscan database that COVID‐19 has yet led to an increase in food fraud.
 
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7858071264?profile=RESIZE_400xThe recently published "Fixing the Future of Food" report, carried out by Veris Strategies, found that 78% of industry leaders (from companies like Nestle, Greencore, World Resources Institute and more) felt that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed serious weaknesses in the UK food system. Further, 96% of those leaders felt that the UK was not prepared to deal with the long term effects of the pandemic.

The report also polled consumers and found that 90% of consumers believed the pandemic would lead to more sustainable and ethical food systems. 

Read the story on the report from Food & Drink International Magazine here, or download the full report here.

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Risk assessments during the pandemic

7857648483?profile=RESIZE_710xBarbara Hirst of RFood Safety and Quality Consultant, and Marta Ahijado, Head of Food R&D at RSSL, spoke with New Food Magazine about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected supply chains, risk assessments and analytical testing.

The pandemic has changed how businesses operate enormously, including their ability to perform physical risk assessments on site, creating new challenges and uncertainty for manufacturers and retailers. For example, disruptions to supply chains can introduce the need for businesses to source new ingredients from new suppliers.

Read the full story on the New Food website to learn more from Barbara and Marta about how businesses are adapting to ensure their assessments are accurate.

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USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) has published its annual International Food Security Assessment, which shows that the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has made food security worse.

The annual report determines how much access people in 76 low and middle-income countries have to food. The answer to that question requires tracking incomes, food prices, and other economic factors including agriculture production and market conditions.

“In the 76 low- and middle-income countries examined in the report, the number of people considered food insecure in 2020 was estimated at almost 761 million people or 19.8 percent of the total population. The shock to GDP from COVID-19 is projected to increase the number of food-insecure people by 83.5 million people in 2020 to 844.5 million and increase the share of the population that is food insecure to 22 percent.”

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The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are being felt across the food supply network.

The Chairman of our Advisory Board, Sterling Crew, has published a paper for the IFST, in which he reviews the potential food authenticity challenges created by the pandemic and the mitigation of the emerging risks and threats.

Many of the risk factors for food fraud have increased across the global food supply network due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Steps taken following the horsemeat incident and the Elliott report have strengthened the UK’s food supply network authenticity controls and helped to mitigate vulnerability to COVID-19 related fraud..Chris Elliott

The pandemic has highlighted some of the weaknesses in the nature and complexity of the global food network. The UK food industry must assure the authenticity of food by continuing to minimise the vulnerability to food fraud , by building resilience to possible future shocks and by mitigation of the emerging authenticity risks and created by COVID-19.

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Bar chart illustrating which foods were most difficult to buy in shops, supermarkets, and online grocery services. Dry goods is the highest, followed by tinned food.

      3 key ways the pandemic impacted access to food

 

  1. There was a lack of clarity about how much food people needed to buy.
  2. The pandemic made more people unable to afford food.
  3. Foodservice and hospitality businesses and their suppliers are going to feel the effects of lockdown for years.

EFRA's key recommendations to fix the problem 

1.Ensuring people can afford enough healthy food is the responsibility of multiple Government departments. To bring that work together, the Government should appoint a Minister for Food Security who is empowered to draw together policy across departments on food supply, nutrition and welfare.

2.The Government should work with producers, processors and wholesalers servicing the hospitality and foodservice sector to monitor the health of food and drink suppliers as supply chains restart.

3.The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) should continue to provide £5 million in annual funding to FareShare to redistribute surplus food from farms and across the supply chain to frontline food aid providers for a further two years. This would help those who struggle to afford food as the effects of the pandemic continue, and reduce food waste from farms.

4.Food supply to supermarkets continued because we were able to keep food coming into the country. Future crises could stop this flow and cause more serious problems. The Government has to update its food resilience plans, taking into account how consumer behaviour can disrupt food supply and whether our efficient "just-in-time" supply chains are as resilient as they need to be.

Read summary and full report.

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6695463089?profile=RESIZE_400xFood Standards Scotland (FSS) has issued a Press Release highlighting to food and drink businesses in Scotland to be alert for potential food crime activity in their supply chains, as its Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU) is aware, via recent reports, that  COVID-19 circumstances has created a factor or motivation for food crime. It is, therefore, advising businesses to remain vigilant about their food supply chains, and recommends they refer to a joint guide, developed with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Food Standards Agency on improving fraud resilience for food and drink businesses. 

Read the FSS Press Release

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The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) is allowing temporary flexibility in food labelling requirements for manufacturers experiencing difficulty sourcing some ingredients during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has published temporary guidance to allow for minor formulation changes without updating labels, in order to help minimise the impact of supply chain disruptions associated with the current COVID-19 pandemic on product availability.

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The Covid-19 outbreak has caused problems in certain sectors of the food supply chain, for example in meat processing plants, air freight of fresh produce. It means that many food manufacturers are struggling to obtain the all the ingredients in a global food chain for their food products. It also means that the shorter the food chain the less risk there is, and local supply chains are benefitting from this situation.

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5195179470?profile=RESIZE_400xCOVID-19 is disrupting food systems globally and governments must stabilise food supply chains and thoughtfully expand social safety nets now to avert social unrest. Lessons learned from the 2008–2012 food price crises globally, which caused riots in 50 countries, point to seven actionable points to consider.

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The guidance for food business operators and their employees is aimed to assist all food businesses in following government guidance on infection prevention and control measures against COVID-19.

Scottish Government requirements to close restaurants, cafes and public houses to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has led many of these businesses to offer new take-away or delivery services to their customers. The closure of many catering businesses has also resulted in increased demand for existing take-away businesses.  In recognition of the challenges faced by small businesses in the food take-away sector we have produced a practical guide to help them communicate consistently to their customers, including model notices that can be used to maintain social distancing requirements at their premises.

The guidance is being continually reviewed and will be updated to reflect developments so please refer to the FSS website for their latest advice.

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Research undertaken by Crowe UKKYND and University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Counter Fraud Studies found that the vast majority of the top 200 AIM businesses have significant unaddressed cyber risks. Unfortunately, the risks identified are not just limited to the top 200 AIM businesses and are also likely to exist in similar companies. 

The cyber landscape is becoming increasingly complex, particularly now we're seeing increased strain from fraud and cybercrime pressures related to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Fraud and cybercrime is expected to surge over 60% in the coming months. Keeping pace with the evolution of cyber threats is becoming ever more challenging and important. This was evidenced in the report's key findings.

  • 91.5% exposed to email spoofing
  • 47.5% have at least one external internet service exposed, placing them at higher risk of ransomware attack
  • 85% using services with well-known vulnerability to cyber attack
  • 41.5% using vulnerable out of date software
  • 31.5% operating with at least one expired, revoked, or distrusted security certificate
  • 64% companies with at least on domain registered to personal email address.

Download the Fraud and cybercrime vulnerabilities on AIM report

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4922013891?profile=RESIZE_400xThe restrictions which many countries have brought into place to manage the spread of Covid-19 have in turn severely impacted the Food industry Buying patterns have changed resulting in panic buying testing the ability of some food chains to respond whilst on the other hand closures of food service outlets and non-food retail has resulted in loss of markets for others.

Much of the focus in factories has rightly been on changing the way that we work to safeguard the health of our workers by providing a safe working environment introducing social distancing. The changes which we have all had to make also introduce new challenges to the way that we manage food safety with potential disruption to supply chains, staff absenteeism and an influx of new temporary workers to the food industry.

This guidance document has been produced to complement the BRCGS Food Safety Standard to help managers fine tune their food safety management systems to cope with the new position which the food industry now faces.

BRCGS Guidance Document – Managing Food Safety During Covid-19.

 

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4817817072?profile=RESIZE_710xTwo fraudulent horsemeat shipments were seized in Europe last week, marking the start of an expected surge in food fraud.

The seizures have reinforced concerns among food safety experts that criminals will target food supply chains disrupted by the pandemic.

The horsemeat samples were held in the Netherlands and Denmark, with one intended for “unauthorised placing on the market,” according to the EU’s RASFF food safety register.

“You’ll see that regulators across Europe will probably now be looking at horsemeat and the labelling of it much more closely because those two cases have been identified,” said Louise Manning, professor of agri-food and supply chain security at Royal Agricultural University.

It was “unusual” to have two horsemeat seizures in as many days, she said, though it was unclear whether it was due to increased fraud activity or greater vigilance.

The risk of food crime has soared during the pandemic as the collapse of foodservice and the closure of meat processing plants has created a dramatic imbalance in supply and demand.

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With news of scams relating to the COVID-19 pandemic emerging on an almost daily basis, it is imperative that companies maintain and even step up efforts to secure their brands.

4552592058?profile=RESIZE_710xThat’s the message from the UK’s cross-industry Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) in its latest annual report, which says that while business may be struggling to contend with the coronavirus emergency “they more than ever need their brand protection workforces to help protect consumers and their company’s vital asset.”

“Criminal counterfeiters are in manufacturing overdrive,” says ACG director general Phil Lewis, adding they are working overtime to manufacture and stockpile counterfeits, ready to sell them once the heath crisis abates.

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IFST has brought together a COVID-19 Advisory Group, which includes our scientific staff and some of our experienced members. The COVID-19 Advisory Group are actively assessing the impact of COVID-19 - signposting to credible resources created by others, and generating additional complimentary IFST knowledge resources for consumers, members and organisations throughout the food chain. These are uploaded onto the IFST COVID-19 Knowledge Hub which is free to access.

The COVID-19 Advisory Group are working closely with our IFST member communities, other professional bodies and external Government to equip everyone with best advice at this time.

Meet the COVID-19 Advisory Group https://www.ifst.org/covid-19-advisory-group:

Chair: Chris Gilbert-Wood (also Chair of IFST Scientific Committee)

Members: Ivan Bartolo, Sue Bell, Julian Cooper, Sterling Crew, Sam Jennings, Alex Kent, Andy Kerridge, Peter              Littleton, Louise Manning, John Points, Denis Treacy, Peter Wareing.                            

And from the IFST Team: Natasha Medhurst and Rachel Ward.

Access the COVID-19 Knowledge Hub here: https://www.ifst.org/covid-19-knowledge-hub

 

 

 

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As the novel coronavirus pandemic shuts down businesses globally and sends countries into lockdown, the disruptions are threatening to cut off supply chains and increase food insecurity.

"Supermarket shelves remain stocked for now," the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said in a report released late last month. "But a protracted pandemic crisis could quickly put a strain on the food supply chains, a complex web of interactions involving farmers, agricultural inputs, processing plants, shipping, retailers and more."

The issue, however, is not food scarcity -- at least, not yet. Rather, it's the world's drastic measures in response to the virus.

Border closures, movement restrictions, and disruptions in the shipping and aviation industries have made it harder to continue food production and transport goods internationally -- placing countries with few alternative food sources at high risk.

Airlines have grounded thousands of planes and ports have closed -- stranding containers of food, medicine, and other products on tarmacs and holding areas, said the UN Conference on Trade and Development on March 25.

Heightened instability in global food supply will affect the poorest citizens most, warned the UN's Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in a paper last month.

Even private companies and organizations have called for immediate action to address the looming food catastrophe.

"Governments, businesses, civil society and international agencies need to take urgent, coordinated action to prevent the COVID pandemic turning into a global food and humanitarian crisis," said an open letter to world leaders from scientists, politicians, and companies like Nestle and Unilever.

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4390199282?profile=RESIZE_710xUK meat plants and abattoirs, like many other sectors, are suffering a shortage of personnel during the Covid-19 crisis. However, the shortage is not just for operators in the plants, but also there is insufficient supervision by official veterinarians (OVs) and meat hygiene inspectors (MHIs) because of Covid-19 related sickness. In the face of these challenges the FSA, which has responsibility for meat hygiene, has drawn up contingency plans to try and deal with this situation. Measures include transferring qualified staff from other roles back to inspection, and bringing some qualified staff out of recent retirement. There is also the possiblitity to relax certain rules on inspection to ease the burden in meat plants and abattoirs.

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