The horse-meat contamination scandal that unfolded across Europe last year highlights how the food chain has become fragile and vulnerable to fraud, a researcher says.
“No-one likes to be deceived and certainly not when it comes to food,” said Saskia van Ruth in her inaugural address as professor of food authenticity and integrity at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
Van Ruth said new unconventional fraud and special products with labels such as “sustainable”, “biological” or “animal-friendly” called for new advanced analytical methods.
Food fraud was continuing today, she warned. “Products are sourced from all over of the world and the food chain has become a fragile, extensive widely-branched network, vulnerable to fraud.”
In recent years there have been a number of incidents involving horse meat, melamine, fish or organic products, she said. However, little was known about how often food fraud really occurred, how widespread it was and where it occurred.
A systematic approach to food fraud knowledge was required on the vulnerability of products, and the organizations and chains for food fraud.
Van Ruth is collaborating with criminologists at the VU University in Amsterdam in her research in the field.
“If something seems too good to be true, then it’s probably too good to be true,” she said.
She said better expertise and technology was needed to get an improved grip on food fraud issues.