The complexities of food fraud require an understanding of criminology to remove incentives for criminals and to create more resilient food supply chains.
Today, food fraud is regarded mainly as a food regulatory/quality issue and it is addressed with the typical approach well known to the food business: risk analysis followed by mitigation strategies. The discussion has been mostly science-driven and very much focused on new testing techniques and data and technology solutions.
Even though many voices have claimed that “we must think as criminals” to get ahead of fraudsters, this approach has not been fully explored aside from attempts by some particularly active authorities in the EU (e.g. the Irish Food Safety Authority [FSAI], the National Food Crime Unit [NFCU] in the UK, the NAS Carabinieri in Italy, or the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority [NVWA]).
In the private sector, most businesses do not have the competencies to coordinate with police investigations into food fraud. Even in the public sector where food safety authorities employ more scientists and veterinarians, there is limited experience with police-type investigations and with coordinating with police forces who are already overwhelmed by other criminal investigations.
According to an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report (OECD/EUIPO 2016), imports of counterfeited and pirated goods are worth nearly half a trillion US dollars per year, or around 2.5% of global imports, with US, Italian, and French brands the hardest hit. Many of the proceeds go to organised crime. Of those 500 billion US dollars (more than the entire GDP of countries like Belgium or Thailand), it is estimated that at least 60 billion US dollars have come from fraudulent food products. However, because fraud is a concealed crime, the real value of counterfeited food traded today is mostly unknown and estimates range from 30 to 200 billion US dollars per year.
It is clear that we face a problem that is profoundly interconnected with international organised crime groups. The problem cannot be understood and addressed appropriately without having a fraudsters’ mindset or without understanding the implications of the term “fraud”.
At the same time, we must acknowledge that fighting food fraud is a never-ending effort due to the hidden nature of such crime and the fraudsters’ ability to exploit grey areas in legislation as well as in private and public testing and inspection regimes. While today’s objective is to increase the resiliency of the supply chains against the risks posed by organized crime, tomorrow’s ambition should be removing the incentives that criminals and opportunistic subjects have for jumping into the food crime arena, a result that cannot be achieved unless the public and private sectors move in concert in the same direction
Food fraud criminogenesis and the “crime triangle”
Criminology (from the Latin crimen, which means “accusation”, and the ancient Greek -????? or -logia, from ????? or logos, which means "word” or “reason") is the study of crime and deviant behaviour. It is an interdisciplinary field in both the behavioural and social sciences that draws primarily upon the research of sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, psychiatri
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