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Healing highlighted that it’s often a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions that lead to criminal elements capitalising on the opportunity to commit fraud in food and drink supply chains.  

“Food fraud is an opportunistic situation that will occur or can occur whenever you’ve got either shortages of supply, or particularly expensive ingredients, where a criminal element could see a way to relatively easily substitute one thing for another and make money on it with limited risk of being detected,”​ she explained.

These causative factors can change all the time, with a recent example being the war in Ukraine creating opportunities for fraudsters looking to replace sunflower oil. Expenses spices, such as saffron, are also prime targets for criminals.

Government intervention

When asked if the Government could be doing more to prevent food fraud, Healing doubted how effective their intervention would really be. Effectively, all the Government can spend money on is testing.

She recognised that food bodies have pooled their resources to collate their findings in an environment of confidence to share their risk profiles and their testing results but questioned if this was enough.

“The risk is going up quite quickly and whether or not everybody’s ramping up their controls and, and systems at the same rate, I’m not sure that they are,”​ Healing added. “There are shortages of technical resources available in the country anyway, recruiting high calibre technical people is very challenging.