Food fraud: an international snapshot and lessons for Australia

Published date11 November 2020
Date11 November 2020
Subject MatterAccounting & finance,Financial risk/company failure,Financial crime
AuthorJade Lindley
Food fraud: an international
snapshot and lessons for Australia
Jade Lindley
The UWA Law School, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
Purpose Economically motivated food crimes are widespread, and it appears countries and consumers
across the globe areaffected. Foods targeted and ways of dealing withfood crimes vary according to several
factors, including the source and destination of the food; demand; availability (e.g. short growing season);
price; environmental impacts, such as sustainability (e.g. seafood); likely consumers (e.g. babies); and
regulatory controls.Internationally, several foods are well known to be commonly targetedby unscrupulous
criminal groups, ultimatelyleaving unsuspecting consumers exposed economically and physiologically.The
purpose of thispaper is to understand the nature of food fraud and the criminalscommitting it.
Design/methodology/approach Building on a systematic search of international scholarly
literature from a wide cross-section of disciplines, parliamentary documents and media articles rel ating to
food crime, this paper cautions the vulnerabilities to food crimes in Australia from a criminological
perspective. It draws on crime opportunity theory to explain the modus operandi of criminals engaging in
food fraud.
Findings Inadequate testing regimes, unclear def‌initions and inadequate laws expose consumers and
vulnerable industries to foodcrimes. With reference to uniquely Australian examples, this paper highlights
exposure opportunities and concludes with lessons drawn internationally. Further research is underwayto
explore how these vulnerabilities can be resolved through closing regulatory gaps and the introduction of
Originality/value This paper usefully draws on trends in the literatureand applies crime opportunity
theory to understand how food fraudmay present in Australia for everyday foods, as well as emerging and
highly prizedmarkets.
Keywords Financial crime, Fraud, Crime prevention, Food fraud, Crime opportunity theory, Food
crime, Food security, Native Australian food
Paper type Research paper
Food fraud is estimated to cost the global foodindustry US$49bn a year (Williams, 2018). It
involves activities to intentionally deceive, such as food mislabelling; adulterating;
misrepresenting country of origin,weight and nutrition; and repackaging. It is centuries old
and has global reach. Overwhelmingly,the focus of food fraud is for economic prof‌it rather
than human harm, though this is an additional outcome in some instances (Manning and
Soon, 2016). Indeed, food fraud in variousforms can yield illicit prof‌its comparable to those
of cocaine traff‌icking at lower risk, making it thus more desirable (Mueller, 2007). Despite
the ongoing nature of food-related crimes, in many instances, it has failed to capture the
attention of authorities due to the lack of human harm and instead only the worst cases
come to the attention of the media (Food Safety NetServices, 2016). That said, food fraud is
gaining recognition and concern(Spink and Moyer, 2011), particularly during COVID-19,
requiring validation of supplychains as it is a low risk and high prof‌it activity, effortlessly
motivating criminals(Europol, 2020).
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.28 No. 2, 2021
pp. 480-492
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JFC-09-2020-0179
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