The global counterfeit food market is estimated at approximately US $49 billion. European Union Customs reported a 200% increase in food-related counterfeit seizures over the past several years, and the UK’s Food Standards Agency recently launched a series of educational, investigative, and resource initiatives to focus on food fraud and counterfeit. The expanding international trade of agricultural and food products, enhanced production capabilities, and simultaneous consumer interest demands for organic, rare, and limited-availability foods are stimulating a growing market for counterfeit food products. Counterfeit food and food adulteration pose public health risks from ingestion; social risks from illness, public panic or disorder; diminished confidence in the food supply; and economic losses to food suppliers as well as the governments that tax them.
Compounding these issues for consumers and other stakeholders are a complex and variable system of regulatory and voluntary national and international product standards and labeling, enforcement agencies’ lack of oversight or legal punitive mechanisms, and a general lack of public awareness of the problem. Little is known about the prevalence, characteristics, or impacts of food counterfeit and fraud or the types and effectiveness of prevention and intervention strategies. This paper will introduce the problem of food adulteration, counterfeit, and fraud, using the
2007-2008 Chinese melamine contaminations in international animal and human food supply chains as an example. This case study illuminates the interdependence of and implications for the safety of the international food supply chain networks that feed the world, and suggests risk-based detection and prevention strategies and interventions based on an analytic (triangle) model of food fraud and counterfeit.