Issue #19 2021-12-20
Fraud in recycled plastics (alert) plus easy, good data for (US) food prices
Easy (good) data for food prices
Food fraud with animal by-products and false identities
Food fraud alert for recycled plastics
Christmas keg theft (nailed it!)
Food fraud incidents and horizon scanning updates from the past week
Welcome to Issue 19.
I kept this issue short because it’s 🎄silly season🎄 for many of you (and me!). But do read on for a heads up about the un-meetable demand for recycled resins in food packaging and how that might affect food fraud vulnerabilities, plus an update from the UK’s National Food Crime Unit. Also this week, Purdue University’s data dashboard on food prices.
This issue ends with a list of food fraud incidents added to our Trello board in the past week, plus horizon scanning updates too.
This is the final newsletter for 2021. We return on 10th January.
Wishing you all the best for Christmas and the holiday period. Here’s to a beautiful and 🌞bright 2022,
P.S. If you know someone who’d enjoy this newsletter, please share it with them. It’s free to subscribe and we’re adding audio next year (woo!)
Data and charts for easy commodity price information
Purdue University (USA) has created a handy dashboard for those who are interested in American food prices. The data is presented visually and reports can be customised for food types and time periods.
Active investigations in the UK
The UK’s National Food Crime Unit (FFCU) is part of the Food Standards Agency and is tasked with protecting consumers and industry from food crime, including food fraud. Its current investigation activities include:
- Investigations of people who were pretending to be UK restaurant franchise owners to purchase wholesale quantities of food from Europe at low prices. They then on-sold the food to businesses in the UK.
- Businesses in England and Wales have been investigated for diverting poultry processing by-products which are not fit for human consumption into the human food chain. One business may lose its authorisation to handle animal by-products. Prosecution files have been prepared.
- Investigations into country-of-origin fraud, in which packaged meat is misrepresented with respect to its country of origin. The NFCU says this is occurring on a “large scale”.
- A food business surrendered its licence and ceased trading after being caught using/selling animal by-products for human food and/or providing substandard or misdescribed meat to overseas customers.
In short: 🍏 The UK’s National Food Crime Unit has reported on its activities 🍏 Country of origin fraud in meat; improper handling of animal by-products and impersonation of food service businesses are being investigated 🍏
Is recycled plastic a food fraud risk?
Big food companies like Unilever, PepsiCo, Nestle and Coca-Cola have committed to using more recycled plastics in their packaging. Why is this good? Plastics are made with fossil fuels, so if we make better use of non-virgin plastics, we need to dig up less fossil fuels. And there will be less rubbish pollution too. Great!
Using post-consumer recycled packaging to make new products makes sense. And it is set to be increasingly required by law. The state of California has already set ambitious minimum limits for recycled content in plastic packaging. Beverage manufacturers have to use 15 percent post-consumer recycled content in their California beverage containers from next year, with the concentration rising to 50 percent by 2030.
These trends are leading to increased demand for recycled resins (resin is the base material from which plastic packaging is made). Unfortunately, the supply cannot keep up. In fact, according to one report, the current supply can meet only 6 percent of demand.
Making recycled plastics that are safe for food contact is challenging. There are different technical demands for different types of plastics. The recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) presents less challenges with regards to purity and safety compared to the recycling of polyolefins such as polyethylene and polypropylene. Polyolefin packaging is more likely to contain additives such as antioxidants and colourants, which makes purity more difficult to achieve.
With more companies committing to recycled plastics for their food packaging and with potential supply issues, ‘fake’ post-consumer recycled resins could be a risk. These fakes would be resins made from virgin materials but marketed as containing post-consumer recycled content. If your food company uses post-consumer recycled packaging materials, this vulnerability should be included in your food fraud prevention activities.
In short: 🍏Demand for post-consumer recycled plastic resins far exceeds supply according to one report 🍏 This presents a fraud opportunity, with virgin resin being falsely described as recycled, or the recycled content being mis-reported 🍏
Beverage theft (nailed it!)
Bottles and kegs of beer were stolen last week, by an apparently thirsty man who was presumably looking for a little Christmas cheer.
He stole a truck containing the beverages while it was making a delivery in Rhode Island (USA). Unfortunately for him, the tailgate was down. It dragged along the street, resulting in a very slow getaway, which was filmed by bystanders who jogged along behind the fleeing vehicle.
He’s been charged with reckless driving and will be spending Christmas in jail.
See the video:
Food Fraud Incidents and Horizon Scanning
Food fraud incidents added to Food Fraud Risk Information Database in the past week
Investigators arrested 6 people and seized 2,500 packages of food supplements that claimed to be 'natural' but in fact contained sildenafil (Viagra) - Spain and Italy https://www.europol.europa.eu/media-press/newsroom/news/544-arrests-and-%E2%82%AC63-million-of-fake-pharmaceuticals-and-illegal-doping-substances-seized
A vegetable farmer has been arrested after customers became suspicious of the organic labels attached to his produce. His organic certification had been revoked due to high pesticide levels in his produce. The organic labels and accompanying label information were found to be fraudulently obtained and/or forged - Taiwan
A survey of red yeast rice supplements found that 8% (n = 37) contained negligible amounts of the desired active compound, monacolin K, while 24% had less monacolin K than stated on the label. All but one sample contained too-high levels of the mycotoxin citrinin and 4 of those were labelled 'citrinin-free' - Europe
Twenty four brands of olive oil have been removed from supermarket shelves after they were declared fraudulent, clandestine, smuggled or from unregistered establishments. Three facilities were packing unknown vegetable oils (presumably into bottles labelled 'olive oil') and a factory had its registration suspended for adulteration - Brazil
Officials are investigating a ghee manufacturer that is alleged to be using or adding dalda (vegetable fat) to ghee - India
Food fraud horizon scanning (other updates to the Food Fraud Risk Information Database in the past week)
Chicken and free range eggs
Chicken and free range eggs are at risk of (further) price increases and supply issues as bird flu cases are rising earlier than usual in Europe. The virus usually peaks from October to April in the Northern Hemisphere. Experts say this year's flu has 'unprecedented genetic variability'. Free range eggs may be affected because of the need to move poultry flocks indoors to reduce the risk of the disease. 11/12/2021 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-12-11/bird-flu-is-raging-adding-to-the-risks-for-food-inflation
With more companies committing to recycled plastics for their food packaging and with potential supply issues, ‘fake’ post-consumer recycled resins are a risk. These fakes would be resins made from virgin materials but marketed as containing post-consumer recycled content. 18/10/2021 https://www.food-safety.com/articles/7394-the-regulation-of-chemical-recyclates-for-use-in-food-packaging
Here’s what you missed last month
New trends in food safety infections (foods that are causing more outbreaks) and the top 3 food fraud audit non-conformances featured in Issue #16.