• A POSTnote on food fraud will examine the different types of food fraud and a summary of its prevalence in the UK and globally.
  • It will look at techniques used to authenticate food and drink and existing regulations and legislation in place to prevent food fraud.
  • It will present the current laboratory capacity for testing food imports in the UK and how this may be impacted upon Brexit.
  • It will explore other potential challenges of Brexit including loss of EU certification schemes and intelligence databases.
  • In production. To contribute expertise, literature or an external reviewer please contact Sophie Mountcastle.

Global food supply chains have greatly expanded the scale and impact of food fraud. It can influence consumer confidence, affect the reputation of businesses and is a public health threat. This briefing will give an overview of food fraud including its potential impacts in the UK. It will discuss the technologies currently used to test the authenticity of food and drink, and how the infrastructure required for testing may change following the UK’s exit from the EU.

Food accounted for 1.6% of the global trade in counterfeit goods in 2016, equating to the value of $6.2 billion. Modern food supply chains and manufacturing infrastructure have greatly expanded the scale and potential impact of food fraud. This has been further heightened by the rise of online shopping, which can make tracing food supply chains more difficult. Food fraud is typically achieved using substitution, addition, tampering, or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients, or food packaging. Examples of high-profile food fraud cases include the 2008 Chinese powdered milk scandal, where melamine was added to infant formula, and the detection of horse meat in a variety of beef products in the UK in 2013.

Measures to tackle food crime include regimented testing and sharing of intelligence between organisations. Food fraud is often undetectable except by scientific analysis. The 2014 Elliott Review recommended the establishment of a network of expert labs in the UK to strengthen the UK’s capability in food and drink testing. Testing relies on robust databases and intelligence sharing between industry and regulators, both within the UK and globally. Exiting the EU has been identified as a risk to the safety and security of the UK’s food supply. Future trade deals between the UK and other countries may require the adoption of new tests and standards for food and drink. It is unclear whether the UK has the laboratory capacity to handle the potential testing requirements after EU exit. Brexit may also cause sudden price increases and supply volatility, creating vulnerabilities to fraud. Stakeholders have highlighted that these should be considered when making decisions about labour, subsidies, and new legislation.

This POSTnote aims to provide MPs and Peers with an overview of food fraud. It will the different types of food fraud and a summary of its prevalence in the UK and globally. It will look at techniques used to authenticate food and drink and existing regulations and legislation in place to prevent food fraud. It will present the current laboratory capacity for testing food imports in the UK and how this may be impacted upon Brexit. Finally it will explore other potential challenges of Brexit including loss of EU certification schemes and intelligence databases.