Tag Archives: IAFP

Karen Everstine, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

It’s All About the Supply Chain

By Karen Everstine, Ph.D.
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Karen Everstine, Decernis

I recently attended two webinars that highlighted distinct perspectives on two challenging aspects of food fraud prevention. First, Chris Elliott from Queen’s University Belfast discussed the current situation with meat fraud. He cited his “top three” fraud-prone foods as meat, olive oil and honey. While we cannot determine the true scope of food fraud globally, looking at the data we have collected from the past 10 years, meat is also in our “top three.”

Commodities, food draud, Decernis
Top 10 Commodity Groups. Source: Decernis Food Fraud Database

Meat is prone to fraud in many ways, including misrepresenting the animal species, fraudulent labeling of production practices (organic, kosher, halal, etc.), the use of unapproved additives, the addition of non-meat-based protein ingredients, and misrepresentation of geographic origin (among others).

Elliott discussed some of the reasons that meat is prone to fraud, which included the fact that the industry is highly competitive, relies on low profit margins, and the supply network can be complex. Discussing specifically the horsemeat scandal in Europe a few years ago, he cited the “mess of subcontracts” involved in the adulterated meat, which were based primarily on price. He finished his presentation by noting that certain aspects of meat authentication are still challenging from an analytical perspective, such as ensuring country of origin and verifying the claims about animal feed consumption.

The final in a series of food fraud webinars sponsored by the IAFP Food Fraud Professional Development Group (PDG) focused on another aspect of food fraud: E-commerce. One of the big challenges with food fraud is the intentional nature of the crime, which can make anticipation of adulterants and fraud methods difficult.

GFSI has stated “any plans and activities to mitigate, prevent or even understand the risks associated with food fraud should consider an entire company’s activities, including some that may not be within the traditional food safety or even HACCP scope, applying methods closer to criminal investigation.” This is particularly true for fraud involving intellectual property (IP) infringement, which adds another layer of complexity to detection and prevention strategies. We have more than 200 records documenting fraud involving “counterfeit” products. Counterfeit products are a problem both because of the IP infringement and because, often, the actual contents of the product cannot be verified. Many of the records we have documented involve counterfeit vodka, whiskey, and wine, as well as non-alcoholic soft drinks.

As part of the IAFP webinar, Axel Hein from ApiraSol discussed their work using global customs data to detect counterfeit products, so-called “fantasy trademarks,” and geographical indication infringements.

Global customs data, food fraud
Slide used with permission from ApiraSol

Many countries provide public access to customs data which, when aggregated and combined with other sources (such as Alibaba transactions), allows mapping of supply chains and detection of unusual patterns that may indicate fraud. In school, I spent many months digging through U.S. customs data trying to uncover patterns that might indicate fraud, so I was very interested to see this being done on a larger scale.

Although each webinar was distinct in its focus, each highlighted the importance of supply chain control and monitoring in mitigating food fraud risk. To paraphrase a point made by Elliott, each arrow in a supply network is a potential vulnerability. The continued globalization of the food supply requires new and innovative ways to reduce these supply chain vulnerabilities.

Laura Nelson, Alchemy, Food Safety Tech

From the Top Down, Gaining Management Support

By Maria Fontanazza
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Laura Nelson, Alchemy, Food Safety Tech

The importance of accountability at the employee level should not be underestimated. Food safety professionals recognize this, and gaining support from management is key. In this video interview from the 2015 IAFP conference, Laura Nelson, vice president of business development at Alchemy, shares her thoughts on how companies should not only train their employees but also track the effectiveness of that training.

 

This year’s Food Safety Consortium Conference (November 17-20, 2015 in Schaumburg, IL) features sessions on employee engagement and involvement in Food Safety Culture. Register now.

When Someone Dies, It’s Not Business As Usual

By Maria Fontanazza
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Next month Stewart Parnell, the former CEO of Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), is scheduled to be sentenced for his role in a deadly salmonella outbreak involving shipping contaminated peanut products nationwide. Parnell, who could spend the rest of his life in jail, was found guilty on 71 counts, including conspiracy, obstruction of justice and wire fraud. This landmark case sends a strong message about accountability to both industry and consumers, said Darin Detwiler, senior policy coordinator for food safety at STOP Foodborne Illness, at the IAFP 2015 conference in July.

“His actions resulted in technically more deaths than that of Charles Manson,” said Detwiler, who indicated that Parnell is still very much in denial over his role in the salmonella outbreak. “This might be one snapshot—one look at one person in one industry, in one business—but think about how many companies are out there [and] of this mindset—the idea that they’ll never get caught.”

Food companies should be held strictly liable when it comes to consumer safety, ensuring that they take preventive measures so that illness and death never happen. The sentencing of Parnell next month could set a precedent for how future cases involving companies responsible for foodborne illnesses and outbreaks are handled.

Maria Fontanazza, Editor-in-Chief, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC

FSMA Will Demand More Collaboration in Food Labs

By Maria Fontanazza
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Maria Fontanazza, Editor-in-Chief, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC

As FSMA promises to increase the responsibility of food laboratories, companies must pave a path forward by working more closely with industry as a whole, government and non-government organizations, as well as with each other. This was the clear message relayed by Pamela Wilger , assistant director of global food safety at Cargill, at IAFP 2015.

“We consider a lab any person generating data,” said Wilger, who emphasized the “lab” is not just the room itself. Lab testing should not focus on a single narrow view (i.e., one test); companies should be efficiently applying their resources, considering both science and risk. “Non-science based testing can lead to conflicts between suppliers and customers and manufacturers and regulators, and destruction of wholesome product.”

Here’s where improvement is needed in food labs:

  • Disseminating best practices. “We don’t even share that [as an industry],” said Wilger. “We don’t have time to replicate the same work.”
  • Aligning international rules
  • Cooperating with national regulators, including local/regional entities.
  • Testing and improving compliance policies
  • Building consumer trust and confidence
  • Training/competency development. Finding the right people, and encouraging employee knowledge sharing
  • Being prepared for the next intentional economic adulteration

Palmer Orlandi, Ph.D., CAPT, U.S. Public Health Service Sr. Science Advisor in the Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine at FDA, shared insights on how FSMA will affect lab responsibilities moving forward, with a focus on prevention versus reaction. The objective for lab capacity programs is to facilitate submission and acceptance of meaningful and actionable data to all regulatory agencies, he said.

  • Reset, expand and integrate: A need to focus on resources
  • Method performance and “fit for purpose”, harmonized standards
  • Large-scale focused surveillance activities; statistical significance, real-time evaluation of data generated
  • Real-time communications, bioinformatics, IT infrastructure, data-sharing platforms
  • Technology and innovation partnerships, including on an international basis
Michael Taylor FDA

FDA: FSMA Resources and Funding-Crunch Still Top Message

By Maria Fontanazza
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Michael Taylor FDA

With the upcoming regulations right around the corner, the good news is that FDA is still on track to meet the FSMA deadlines for August (preventive controls for human and animal food). But as industry looks to the future of FSMA and its implementation, resources and funding will be a challenge. Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at FDA, continued this message (which he declared several months ago) at the 2015 IAFP conference in Portland, OR.

“We’ve been given a brand new mandate by Congress to do things we haven’t done before,” said Taylor, as he emphasized that FDA will be in a do-more-with-less resource-challenged state.  FDA would need, over the five years following the enactment of FSMA, $580 million, said Taylor. Over the first five years, FDA has received about $162 million (through 2015). “2016 is the absolute crunch year for FSMA funding,” he said. President Obama’s budget request for FY2016 would provide $109.5 million.

The issue is that there simply isn’t enough funding to get it all done, or as Taylor put it, not enough money to “maintain momentum towards comprehensive implementation of the FSMA vision.” As a result of the funding limitations, Taylor said that FDA will be making “hard choices” and will be forced to prioritize the funding that it receives. He indicated that the agency will focus on preventive controls implementation first. But this leaves a potential for disruption due to the investments needed for implementing the produce safety rule and building a strong system for imports, which may pose the biggest challenge over the next decade, Taylor warned. While trying to remain positive, the deputy commissioner also maintained that he wanted to be transparent about the situation.

FSMA will give FDA the ability and technology to act in real-time when issues occur, but it will also require new skills and training, as well as a shift in culture. In November, Taylor will be the opening plenary speaker for the Food Safety Consortium Conference and will surely have more insights, as industry will be entering the implementation phase.