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Austerity feeds food fraud and fakes

Wednesday, August 07, 2013 - 02:35

August 7 - Six months after Europe was rocked by the horsemeat scandal, food industry experts say food fraud is a bigger problem than many consumers recognise. Pan-European police force Europol says counterfeiting is on the increase, helped by the economic crisis. Joanna Partridge looks at what the food industry could do to crack down on food fraud.

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Police raid a processing plant in Spain They're after caviar - otherwise known as black gold It was a joint Europol - Interpol operation to combat food fraud. This caviar - thought to be from China - was being illegally re-packaged as an expensive Iranian product. Six months ago, European consumers were shaken by revelations of large scale substitution - cheaper horse meat was added to beef products. It highlighted the often circuitous route food takes and the potential for global fraud. Mitchell Weinberg is founder of Inscatech, a food fraud protection firm. SOUNDBITE: Mitchell Weinberg, Founder and CEO of Inscatech, saying (English): "I wasn't terribly surprised at all, I didn't realise they were going to use horsemeat, but meat adulteration is very common in other parts of the world. It is just one kind of adulteration, we've seen more egregious cases in China where they've used rat meat." Along with knock-off watches and fake designer clothes, trading standards officers often come across counterfeit food and drink. Alcohol is a particular problem, says Russell Bignell from Wandsworth Council in South London. SOUNDBITE: Russell Bignell, Trading standards officer, Wandsworth Council, saying (English): "Bollinger champagne that we seized from a local retailer. This is the genuine bottle and this is the counterfeit bottle. This is of an inferior quality, the red label has obviously been printed on a home printer here. As you compare that to the original, you notice that the gold writing is embossed. You're also looking for certain spelling mistakes as well." The pan-European police force Europol says the economic crisis has fuelled the problem of counterfeiting. And consumers need to watch out. SOUNDBITE: Russell Bignell, Trading standards officer, Wandsworth Council, saying (English): "What's in it, you just don't know. It might just be cheap sparkling wine as opposed to champagne but it might be more serious, it might have methanol in it." SOUNDBITE: Mitchell Weinberg, Founder and CEO of Inscatech, saying (English): "The challenge for governments is that they can only start enforcing when the food hits the border and because most of the food or ingredients that come in to most countries come from other parts of the world, there's little that governments can do to enforce food fraud protection provisions. The private sector is taking a more active role." Food testing was stepped up following the horsemeat scandal. But it doesn't tackle the causes of food fraud. The food industry says the world's biggest producers need to take action, checking all their suppliers would be a good start.

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Austerity feeds food fraud and fakes

Wednesday, August 07, 2013 - 02:35