The UK food industry is facing a dual-pronged threat of rising food fraud due to Brexit and COVID-19 – and must maintain its investments in proven systems of quality control and product testing in order to guard against this threat.

Elementar UK is calling for businesses along the food supply chain to take proactive measures to address the growing influx of fake, adulterated and fraudulent food products that have been flooding the market over the last six months, as criminals take advantage of the widespread global disruptions caused by the worldwide pandemic.

Over the summer, Interpol and Europol coordinated Operation Opson IX, during which items seized included cheese that tested positive for E.coli bacteria, meat from illegally slaughtered animals and 6,500 litres of expired drinks.  Of particular concern was the fact that many of the activities uncovered demonstrate that COVID-19 is providing ideal conditions for these criminals to operate, for instance:

  • Seizures of expired food items, or foods where the expiry dates had been altered, were significantly higher than during previous operations
  • A shipment of seafood was being smuggled by being falsely declared as personal protective equipment

In recent months, organisations including Lloyd’s Register, the Food Authenticity Network Advisory Board and Food Standards Scotland have all warned that the current pandemic is greatly increasing the risk of food fraud.  National lockdowns have disrupted regular business processes, meaning that quality checks may not be taking place across the supply chain as expected; at the same time, budget-conscious consumers may be becoming less discerning about where they source their food, giving fraudsters another leg up.

For businesses in the UK, this threat could now be compounded by the forthcoming impact of Brexit.  Concerns have persisted for months that the UK’s break from established Europe-wide systems of food standards regulation and quality control could create uncertainties that might be exploited by fraudsters. With no post-Brexit trade deal yet established between the UK and EU and the current transitional agreement expiring on 31 December 2020, this ambiguity looks set to persist for some time.

The food industry is facing unprecedented challenges and an uncertain future.  With all of the disruptions to business processes and forward planning, it is unsurprising that food suppliers are finding it harder to detect examples of fraud and maintain their quality control standards; however, it is crucial to their future success that they are able to solve this problem.

DB Foods approach to quality assessment and analysis of food products remains robust, throughout their supply chain.

Back to News