By Yushuang Sun, Senior Research Associate, GFSF
With the rapid development of food and chemical industries, use of new materials, booming global trade, and the resulting complexity in food supply chains, food fraud has become a global issue. Over the past decade, scandals related to adulterated and fake food have made international headlines and generated waves of consumer backlash. Earlier this year, a joint Europol-Interpol operation targeting counterfeit, substandard food and drink, and illicit food trade in 61 countries, including 21 EU Member States, has led to the seizure of 9,800 tons of food and 26.4m liters of beverages, totaling 13m harmful items ranging from everyday products such as alcohol, mineral water and olive oil, to luxury products such as caviar. In China, more than half a million incidents of food safety violations, including false advertisements, the use of counterfeit products and ingredients, and the sale of contaminated food products were uncovered in the first three quarters of 2016 alone. Food fraud has been estimated to cost the global economy over US$40 billion a year.
The best way forward is greater transparency and integrity in food supply chains with an emphasis on global alliances and new technologies. Announced in June, the EU-China-Safe project, coordinated by the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen’s University Belfast, comes as a much needed response to these growing demands. Hailed as one of the world’s-largest food safety projects, this initiative has secured a funding of €10m from the EU’s Horizon 2020 program and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), and involves 33 key research organizations, government agencies, and industry players needed to jointly deliver an effective, resilient, and sustainable EU-China food safety partnership. The overall goal of this project is to develop a shared vision of best practices within these two regions that will improve food safety, combat food fraud, restore consumer confidence, build mutual recognition of data and standards, and foster bilateral agro-food trade to promote economic growth.