The conference, held in London last month, brought together technical experts, academics, scientists and government officials to give their views on how to tackle fraud.
Areas covered included social media, nanotechnology, tools to help risk analysis, cross-sector cooperation and horizon scanning.
Seven stop approach
Carole Payne, a senior consultant for NSF, outlined a seven-step approach for firms to tackle potential fraud in their business and supply chain during her presentation.
These included horizon scanning, fraud modelling, training and supply chain relationships and control.
She told FoodQualityNews that the emphasis is on being proactive rather than reactive.
“Industry has been in reactive mode with testing but with horizon scanning you are looking at your own supply chain to prevent an event, turning the way of looking at things on its head, as you are mitigating risk and being proactive.
“Doing x number of tests is expensive and you don’t always know what you are looking for. So start from the beginning and identify potential risks that could lead to fraud.”
Professor Declan Naughton of Kingston University introduced a network analysis tool being used with the RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Feed and Food) database to inform risk analysis and preparation for emerging issues.
He showed how ‘big data’ analysis can be used to data mine food safety databases almost instantly to provide risk prediction.
Speakers from industry, FSA and academia
John Barnes from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) gave an overview of the Food Crime Unit and stressed the importance of intelligence sharing with industry and official government departments.
Professor Lisa Jack, a forensic accountant from the Centre for Counter Fraud studies at Portsmouth University, showed how fraud is profit motivated and always leaves a paper trail if you know what to look for.
Feedback showed themes that resonated most with the audience from retail and manufacturing are the immediate issues around fraud.
Payne said it is often the case that the more you look the more you are going to find.
“Fraud, if deliberate, is a criminal activity, people are trying to make money. There are food fraud courses at NSF and we see people are starting to think in this way, of the likelihood of fraud being detected in certain products and the risk controls that can be put in place.
“Industry needs to work together and not all do their own separate testing or just testing on its own to address the issue together.
“There was absolute agreement that it is a big issue and we need to work together to limit brand damage and move things forward.”
NSF International has already lined up a similar conference for February next year.
Other areas covered included social media which poses a threat and an opportunity - for brand reputation in ways that were almost unimaginable five years ago.
Businesses have to wake up and understand the dynamics of instant communication, learn the lessons and act – whether it involves revising product formulations or sensitively handling potentially brand damaging perceptions.
Collaboration between industry and regulators and across borders was also a major theme.
There is no room for an ‘us and them’ approach with growing international criminal fraud by highly organised mafia style groups, said the attendees.
They added food safety, procurement and technical departments must work together to prevent and identify fraud in the supply chain.