Nordic nations assess threat of food fraud – Food Safety News | CarTailz

An assessment of food fraud covering four sectors in several countries has been published by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

A project was funded in 2018 to investigate the threats posed by criminal activity in the Nordic food production chain. Participating countries were Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden. The main topics were animal raw materials, fish and seafood, the declaration of Nordic origin and organic production.

In 2019, Denmark, Norway and Sweden conducted national threat assessments. Denmark has had its own unit dealing with suspected food fraud for years. In Sweden, the national food authority (Livsmedelsverket) is working on an assessment at central government level. Norway has few dedicated resources but more inspectors, some of whom are specialized in managing food fraud cases. Iceland has a relatively small market and few government resources.

An overall threat rating is based on reputation, financial losses, food safety, and consumer confidence on a scale from very low to very high.

Examples of meat and seafood
Various types of meat fraud have been detected in Norway, including illegal importation, theft, product re-labelling, poor quality camouflage and black market sales, and illegal production. The food safety risk from meat fraud was rated as medium to high.

Denmark found that home slaughter had dropped significantly after a mobile unit focused on detection, destruction, recall, release and fines for participants. Sweden and Norway are particularly vulnerable to vehicle and ferry traffic from Eastern European and Baltic countries.

Two case studies were presented. One was an illegal slaughterhouse found after reports from the public about the sale of home-slaughtered pork before Christmas. Another involved selling meat at a car dealership. Empty packages of chicken fillets from Brazil, beef from the Netherlands and Ireland and lamb from New Zealand were found. Four freezers were hidden behind stacks of tires, plastic sheeting, and car mats. A total of 230 kilograms of meat were confiscated.

The most common forms of seafood fraud are species substitution, geographical origin labeling, undeclared additives, illegal weight gain additives, falsification of documents and use of fake companies and identities. The food safety risk was assessed as low to medium.

There have been cases of online fraud in Norway. Websites claim to be Norwegian fish producers and offer goods at cheap prices. They provide documentation that includes copied websites from real producers and stolen identities of people working in Norwegian seafood production, as well as fake health certificates and customs documents. They ask for a partial payment in advance before the goods are shipped, the seller then disappears and no goods are delivered.

Another case involved a company that produced fake certificates of analysis stating that salmon was Listeria-free when it was not. Authorization numbers assigned to another company were used. The case led to the bankruptcy of the company. There have also been several tuna-related cases in the EU. Additives such as nitrites, antioxidants and carbon monoxide color tuna red to give it a fresh appearance. If fish is stored at the wrong temperatures for too long, there is a risk of histamine poisoning.

Product origin and organic authenticity
Food origin fraud is another area. Products labeled as originating from a Nordic country are usually considered to be products with special characteristics. The motive can be a mismatch between supply and demand or higher profits.

A company in Sweden sold foreign meat as Swedish and had insufficient guarantees for salmonella. An anonymous tip resulted in a company in Denmark being fined for selling Brazilian beef as Danish. Another incident involved Canadian shrimp sold as being from Iceland. However, the case was dropped due to procedural errors.

Nordic food authorities find it easy to commit fraud related to organic food. As with origin marking, the tools needed are easy to obtain. Counterfeiting traceability documents and certificates from regulatory authorities can be easy and the supply chain is complex. The large price difference between conventional and organic food can encourage fraud.

Swedish authorities found that a company had supplied organic fruit baskets containing conventional fruit to a number of major customers, including government agencies. It also had several branches that were not registered as food businesses. The company was banned from selling organic food and fined.

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