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Combating illicit trade in food and food fraud requires a comprehensive response including regulatory measures, enforcement, industry cooperation, and consumer education, a new report by the World Trade Organization states.

Regulatory solutions and strategic cooperation are needed

“Regulatory solutions to combat food fraud need to involve all the people and activities that play a part in growing, transporting, supplying, and consuming food – known as the agri-food system. This approach requires strategic cooperation among all stakeholders, a regulatory response (i.e. modern food safety legislation) led by the competent authorities, and private-sector strategies to limit and mitigate fraud,” the report states.

According to the authors of the report, “modern food safety legislation offers many possibilities to counter food fraud,” and legislation that “takes a holistic approach to the food chain will leave few gaps for fraudsters to exploit.”

Entitled “Illicit Trade in Food and Food Fraud,” the report is the first WTO publication on illicit trade in food and food fraud. Illicit trade in food and food fraud include the buying and selling of products that are not what they claim to be, fail to comply with health and other regulations, and are smuggled or produced or traded outside of the legitimate market framework.

The report estimates that the global cost of fruit to the food industry is between U.S. $30-50 billion per year - not including illicit trade in alcoholic beverages.

According to the WTO, international trade plays a key role in food fraud.

The authors of the report state that while international trade has helped reduce poverty and hunger across the globe, “the resulting complexity of food supply chains makes combating illicit trade in food and food fraud much harder.”

The report also states that the greater distances “between where food is grown and where it is consumed provide more opportunities for illegal activities.”

Prevention is always easier 

One of the main findings of the report is a takeaway that should be familiar to any food, beverage, or cannabis company that is working to safeguard employees and consumers and avoid recalls” prevention is the best route.

“Prevention is a more cost-effective strategy for  both governments and the food industry, since it helps to ensure consumer safety, maintain product integrity and preserve brand reputation,” the report states.

Public-private collaboration is key

The report calls on governments and the private sector to work together, saying that “by bringing together governments, the private sector, law enforcement and technical experts from around the world to work in collaboration, the WTO can help to combat illicit trade in food and food fraud internationally.”

It also states that timely, thorough investigations of fraud “not only identify illicit actors, uncover fraud and, most importantly, expose any risks to public health and safety, but also deter future illegal activities. Investigations can warn the public about current dangers and prevent fraudulent food from being consumed unwittingly.”

In the absence of extensive collaboration between governments, international organizations, the private sector and civil society, it is up to companies to take actions to protect the food supply chain and their customers and employees. In addition to helping combat food fraud, these actions can help companies build a culture of safety and avoid food safety recalls - and the consequences that ensue from recalls. 

To hear more about how companies can prevent food safety recalls, check out our upcoming Rootwurks webinar "How You Can Prevent Food Safety Recalls," featuring Joel Chappelle of the Food Industry Counsel. Airing live on June 12th at 12pm CST. Grab your spot here:



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Ben Hartman, Content Manager

Ben Hartman is a cannabis writing and marketing professional with over 15 years of experience in journalism and digital content creation. Ben was formerly the senior writer and research and analysis lead for The Cannigma.

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