What is food fraud and what’s being done about it?

(NC) You probably know a few basics about financial fraud – like that you shouldn’t click on suspicious email links or share your passwords. But what about fraud when it comes to food? What’s the big deal and what can you do about it?

Food fraud is when food is not what it claims to be on the label. Not only is food fraud illegal, it also means you’re not getting what you pay for. Plus, it can be a health risk for those with allergies if an allergen is added or substituted, or a false health-related claim is made about the product.

There are a few different ways food fraud can present:

  • Food may be substituted for something else, such as a package labelled as cod containing pollock.
  • It may be diluted or adulterated with something else such as sugar syrup added to honey.
  • Claims about the food may be wrong or misleading on the label, such as calling something organic when it’s not certified as such.

Canada is recognized as having one of the safest food systems in the world, but food fraud is a global issue so it pays to be aware.

Foods most targeted for fraud include olive oil, honey, spices, fish and organic products.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) works to protect consumers and the food industry from food fraud through inspection, surveillance and other risk-control measures.

When it comes to fish and seafood, their latest testing shows that even when sampling targets the most at-risk products for sale in Canada, almost 93 per cent of fish are in fact accurately labelled.

In case issues do arise, regulations are in place for all food producers, as well as traceability requirements for the fish and seafood sector to track products in the event a recall or investigation is required.

You can avoid food fraud at the grocery store by considering the pricing and labelling of the product. If the price is too good to be true or the label doesn’t make sense – say the product claims to be grown here when it’s from a tropical climate – those are some red flags.

If you ever think a food is mislabelled, you can tell the retailer, or report it to the CFIA.

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