By Sam Lewis, associate editor
Follow Me On Twitter @SamIAmOnFood
Food fraud is a widespread problem in the food industry with many meat and seafood products being mislabeled due to counterfeiting. Fraud in the supply chain can be detrimental to consumer trust, which, in turn can also harm your brand. Here, Robert Trudel, director of quality assurance and sustainability at Bento Sushi, answers my questions about what food manufacturers can do to fight counterfeiting products and maintaining brand integrity.
Food Online: How rampant is fraud in the food industry and what problems is it causing?
Trudel: It is now known that the food industry suffers approximately $15 billion per year in losses from adulterated and mislabeled foods. Customs agencies have determined this through sophisticated and scientific DNA testing. The fraudsters are getting more advanced in trying to manipulate the systems. In some cases, they are finding ingredients that may not even be declared (as a fraudulent ingredient) and are consumed by people who have intolerances or allergic issues. Furthermore we as consumers end up paying a premium for some items that may not be what they say they are.
Food Online: Getting down to nuts and bolts of a food safety plan, what should food manufacturers be doing in food safety plans to protect against counterfeit ingredients?
Trudel: Educate and inform yourself. Get out there and get involved. It is so important to know your product and your suppliers. Talk to your suppliers and find out how much they know about their suppliers and their manufacturers. I found that asking the right questions and making some simple calls put me in a much more informed state and allowed me to make better decisions. If you have the resources, look into DNA testing and in Bento’s case species identification. Fish is one of the biggest culprits in food fraud so ensuring what we are buying is really protecting our brand. You can do a lot of the leg work yourself and source out specific groups and internet links that can and will be very informative.
Food Online: What innovations or technological advancements are currently out that are helping to combat food fraud?
Trudel: Sophisticated DNA testing is making even more ground-breaking advancements. I also ultimately believe in awareness. When people are more informed, searching and challenging claims it will keep the fraudsters on their toes and hopefully one day push them right out. Additionally, Communication, Communication, Communication is key. We have to keep everyone on the same page to fight food fraud head on.
Food Online: Where can food companies learn more to implement best practices that fight food fraud?
Trudel: Do your homework! Reach out to some experts and start asking the questions. There are so many avenues out there with a simple “google” search on “Food Fraud” there you will find many answers and even questions and answers you never thought of. Also, “If you want to learn more about improving the integrity of your supply chain and fighting food fraud, you can attend my presentation at the 7th Annual Food Regulatory & Quality Assurance Summit where I will touch on many of these points and guide you in at least several options for you to browse.
About Robert Trudel
Robert Trudel has been a food professional ever since a young teenager working in restaurants and hotels in multiple roles. In his current role as Director of Quality Assurance at Bento Sushi, Robert’s main focus is developing and implementing advanced training initiatives, food safety and overall quality of product. He also oversees 400 plus onsite locations and double that in DSD locations as well as 6 factories spreading throughout Canada and the USA. He works closely with both the CFIA and FDA as most of the current factory facilities are registered in both countries. Prior to his current role at Bento Sushi, Robert was the Food Safety Manager for the Woodbine Entertainment Group where he implemented a food safety program and various control measures to ensure product safety. He also was the plant manager at the Milton Cook Chill facility (Maplehurst Corrections Facility) where it then produced 6000 plus meals daily for inmates as far as Ottawa. He has held numerous Executive Chef roles for a variety of Hotels and Restaurants over the years and continues his passion for food and enjoys that every day is a new day to learn.
Be sure to attend the 7th Annual Food Regulatory & Quality Assurance Summit where Robert Trudel will be sharing insights on how your company can maintain its brand integrity and fight counterfeiting throughout the supply chain. This year’s summit takes place October 18-19 at the Toronto Marriott Airport Hotel, Toronto, ON. For more information, click here.