Food Authenticity: Five steps to help protect your business from food fraud
This simple guide, which follows on from FDF's Guide on 'Sustainable Sourcing: Five Steps Towards Managing Supply Chain Risk', sets out a step-by-step process to help food and drink manufacturing businesses of all sizes protect their businesses from food fraud by helping them to identify, prioritise and manage upstream supply chain authenticity risks.
Food and drink manufacturers rely on their supply chains to ensure consumer
choice, affordability, consistent quality of products and continuity of supply.
supply chain, no matter how simple or complex, can present risks that need to
be adequately managed. As the global supply system comes under increasing
pressure from population increase, growing demand for limited resources and
changing diets, companies also need to be alert to the potential for food fraud
and actively work with their customers and suppliers to identify and mitigate
the risks of food fraud.
Food fraud is committed when food is deliberately placed on the market,
for financial gain, with the intention of deceiving consumers or customers.
Although there are many kinds of possible food fraud, the Food Standards
Agency (FSA) notes on its food fraud webpage two main types: the sale of food
which is unfit and potentially harmful; and the deliberate misdescription of
food. On top of the existing robust legislative frameworks, strengthening of
intelligence sharing and analysis is key to minimising fraud and informing
industry's own activity to maintain the assurance and integrity of its products
and supply chains. FDF's support to its members on incident prevention and
horizon scanning includes active engagement with members, with the FSA and
and with retailers and other stakeholders in the UK, Europe and globally.
Step 1: Map your supply chain
Collect information to describe your supply chain on a product
basis from a food authenticity perspective
Questions to consider:
- What is required to produce the product, e.g. raw
ingredients, water, packaging, transport?
- Who are your immediate suppliers?
- Who supplies them? Think about suppliers all the way
back to source.
- Are you changing a supplier or process?
- From which countries are key resources sourced and
what do you know about them? e.g. are there any
- What are the critical resources for your business?
- What gives the product and its ingredients their value?
- What specific ingredient requirements do you have, eg
organic, halal, geographical origin, fair trade
- On what basis do you buy the ingredients (e.g. are any
traded on a specific property such as colour or nitrogen
- Have you considered seasonality of supply?
- Use expertise from both within your business
and outside, such as your trade association and other intelligence sharing
help gather the relevant information
- Start by mapping major product categories i.e.
those that are most critical for your business
- Gather information from suppliers to
identify those who are most at risk (e.g. via
questionnaire and supplier assurance and audit
- Create a visual and statistical map of your
product supply chain
KEY OUTCOME: Supply Chain Map
Step 2: Identify impacts, risks & opportunities
Understand the key risks and opportunities for food fraud in your supply chain
Questions to consider
- Is anything that you are sourcing in short supply and/or the subject of media or
- Have there been changes in the products, processes or supply chains your
business depend on?
- Are your supplier assurance and audit systems fit for purpose?
- What are the risks to your business, market presence, and reputation?
- Are there possibilities to do things differently (try to imagine the mindset of
those who may seek to commit food fraud)?
- Is a supplier or potential supplier offering you a deal which seems 'too good to
- Can you identify any other changes to the ingredients, processes or supply
chains that can constitute a risk?
- Does your own production process add any further risks?
- Make sure you are aware of the main factors which may impact on your supply
chains (ie economic and seasonal variables)
- Identify resources that could be the target of fraud because of their value or
- Think about key materials and whether there is any history of authenticity
- Conduct scenario planning: consider the risk if certain resources were to become
unavailable or to be substituted?
- Gather information from suppliers on identified supply chain risks, including
whether they have action plans in place
- Include in your risk assessment information from other sources, such as your
trade association and other intelligence sharing networks
- Continuously monitor in real-time for changes to risks in the supply chain (e.g.
environmental and economic changes which may affect supply chain)
KEY OUTCOME: Understanding key risks and opportunites
Step 3: Assess & prioritise your findings
Analyse how your business can manage food authenticity related risks and
take advantage of opportunities to limit food fraud
Questions to consider:
- What are your key risks and who are the
- Have you prioritised supplier risk separately,
e.g. type of supply chain, direct or indirect
- How well do you know your suppliers, e.g. how
long have you been dealing with them and what
is their track record like?
- How can you learn more about them, e.g.
partnerships, supplier schemes?
- Are your processes for appointing new
- Do you have full visibility of your supply chain?
- Ensure strong links between procurement and regulatory/
technical teams to help monitor and assess the key risks and
potential opportunities for food fraud
- Ensure you are using your supplier assurance and audit
systems to help you to assess and prioritise supplier risk
- To help assess risks, make the most of external sources of
information, e.g. your trade association
- Create a risk matrix (e.g. changes in regulatory requirements,
supply and demand imbalances, resilience of supply chain,
documented cases of fraud) to help with prioritisation
- Assess what is business essential
- Make sure you know what you are buying, have agreed
specifications and monitoring and compliance checks in place
- In your supplier assurance systems, be aware of the need
to keep under scrutiny the possibility of your suppliers
outsourcing to third parties
KEY OUTCOME: Improved knowledge on how to manage risks and opportunities.
Step 4: Create a plan of action
Define a set of actions to reflect the risk of food fraud and prioritise the
opportunities to limit it already established
Questions to consider:
- How can the identified risks be mitigated?
- What measures are feasible to address the
- Who is responsible for delivering the different
parts of the plan?
- How can you get support from senior
management to address these actions and
incorporate into company strategy?
- How best can you involve your suppliers?
- What are your success criteria?
- Consider the effectiveness of your chosen supplier
assurance systems in limiting the opportunities for
food fraud and mitigating the risk from authenticity
issues (including prioritisation of supplier risks)
- Consider the role of authenticity testing
- Set up internal communications to explain why you are
doing this and what is expected of colleagues (let all
know that their views and observations are welcome)
- Set up meetings with suppliers about the risks you
have prioritised and explain what you would like to
- Ensure senior management sign-off of the company's
strategy. Consider using external expertise, particularly
to address risks where you have no immediate solution
KEY OUTCOME: Action plan based on key risks and opportunities
Step 5: Implement, track, review and communicate
Ensure action is taken, progress tracked, and communicated
Questions to consider:
- What is required to implement the
action plan with suppliers?
- How best can you measure
and report progress to senior
management and across the
- Consider integrating relevant parts of the action plan into your
supplier assurance and audit systems
- Agree a timetable for reviewing the action plan and regularly
check it is on track
- Make sure all employees involved have the support and resources
they need - consider any company training needs
- Consider broader internal communication and opportunities for
external communications to enhance transparency and support
- Think of all five steps as a cyclical process that needs to be
reviewed and repeated on a regular basis, as well as in response
to substantial changes in the supply chain, to ensure that it
- Continue to gather real-time data and horizon scan for substantial
changes in the supply chain which should trigger a process review
- Implement the lessons learnt back into business operations,
e.g. for new products and processes
KEY OUTCOME: Fully implemented action plan integrated into the business
Help for small businesses
If you are a smaller business and don't know where to start, try answering a few
basic questions first.
- What are your key raw materials?
- Where do they come from?
- How resilient is their supply chain?
- How do you protect your business from food fraud?
Above all THINK RISK and PLAN AHEAD!
Download the Food Authenticity: Five steps to help protect your business from
food fraud guide - pdf | 600kb
Last reviewed: 22 Dec 2015