Here’s a scary scenario: when a Chinese consumer buys a product labelled “Australian beef,” there’s only a 50-50 chance the meat inside is Australian beef.
There is also a 50-50 chance it contains dog, rat, horse or camel meat, or all of them combined.
This is the reality of food fraud, which is estimated to cost the global food industry over $50 billion each year. For Australian exporters, the overall cost of food and wine fraud for was estimated at $1,689 million in 2017, with dairy, wine, and meat product sectors the most affected.
A single incident of food fraud is estimated to reduce annual revenue by 2–15%, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). Not to mention the long-term damage to your brand reputation, consumer trust and supplier relationships that can be difficult or even impossible to recover from.
So, are you doing enough to protect your brand from the rising threat of food fraud?
In this article, we’ll cover 4 proven strategies against food fraud, with real-life examples of Australian brands putting them to work.
Food fraud prevention strategy #1: authentication
This is any technique that enables the retailer or consumer to confirm that the food product is authentic. Typically, it requires unique codes to be generated to authenticate the product.
An obvious disadvantage of this method is that consumers do not have access to the technology to authenticate the product.
Laser coding is another effective method of authentication.
This is a popular method because lasers are an extremely fast and cost-effective way to mark high quality, permanent codes onto products. Lasers can code onto glass and cardboard, which makes them an ideal method for marking both bottles and cartons. Also, the high-quality mark makes them ideal for where product presentation cannot be compromised, as in the wine industry.
Food fraud prevention strategy #2: track and trace
Track-and-trace solutions are growing in popularity among Australian manufacturers for their ability to protect brands against counterfeiters and facilitate more effective recalls.
Track-and-trace is the ability to identify and track a product from its point of origin through the supply chain, all the way to the end consumer. It requires unique identification at all levels of packaging, including the item, carton and pallet.
At its foundation are GS1 Standards and the relevant identification technology solutions. With each product uniquely identified and labelled, information can be exchanged with trading partners at every stage.
The ability to track a product and know its whole journey from the producer to the consumer is a solid line of defence in good food safety management, as well as an opportunity for food brands to strengthen consumer trust and loyalty.
An evolving track-and-track strategy is blockchain. Blockchain technology is a way of storing and sharing information across a network of users in an open virtual space. It allows users to look at all transactions simultaneously and in real-time. Therefore, when it comes to traceability, blockchain has many advantages– including the fact that it provides a permanent record of transactions that cannot be altered or tampered with. Food fraud is therefore less likely and, if it does happen, easier to spot.
To learn about this technology, here’s a good starting point with whether blockchain fits into the future of food traceability, then move onto how blockchain can improve food traceability.
In 2017, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) set out to fight food fraud with a new research project called BeefLedger. The project uses blockchain technology to track beef from paddock to plate in a way that reassures global consumers about the origins of their Australian beef.
Food fraud prevention strategy #3: serialisation
Serialisation is the process of putting a unique mark on each product and packaging level to enable traceability. A serialisation code can be as deep and detailed as you need – apart from the unique identifier for each individual product, it might include the Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN), product description, SKU, batch number and more.
How does serialisation protect against food fraud? Itessentially puts the supply chain in lock-down, making it more difficult and less financially viable for fraudsters to enter. At the same time, it enables authentication to assure consumers the product is what the label says it is. Camperdown Dairy International is an Australian company using serialisation with incredible results. When they wanted to export baby formula to China, they worked with Trust Codes and Matthews Australasia to come up with a solution to mark each formula tin with a unique serialised QR code.
See serialisation in action at Camperdown Dairy International here…
Food fraud prevention strategy #4: QR code technology
Adding QR codes or other scannable codes to food & beverage labels is another tactic against food fraud. Consumers can scan the code with their smartphones to access interactive (and trustworthy) online content.
Tasmanian cherry producers Reid Fruits told the ABC that they use this strategy after they found fake cartons being sold in Asia that were almost identical to theirs. The company has incorporated QR code technology onto the packaging, which customers can scan to see it is an authentic product from Tasmania. Plus, to make their cartons harder and more expensive to imitate, the company embellishes their packaging with embossing and gold foil. (QR codes are just one of the five codes every manufacturer should know.)
Over to you
Food fraud is a massive risk for Australian manufacturers. If you don’t already have a strategy in place, now is the time to get serious about protecting your brand. We know it can be overwhelming to create an anti-fraud strategy, which is why our experts are here to help. Talk to our team about the solutions we have created for other manufacturers just like you.
Looking for more info about coding, labelling and vision inspection? Matthews’ large resource library is full of information for Australian manufacturers. Plus, it’s all free to download!
Image credits: iStock/ Wavebreakmedia (main); iStock/ DZ Lab (middle)