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How To Protect Your Brand From Food Fraud with BRC 7

By Jorge Acosta   |   
Learn more about BRC 8.
During our recent vacation trip through Europe, it was very common to see designer brand handbags for about 100 dollars, I tried convincing my wife to let me buy her the Prada bag she desires, but she would not let me off that easy. While most astute shoppers would quickly identify these products as counterfeits, most consumers would not suspect a thing. What is troubling is that counterfeiting isn’t exclusive to fashion – it also happens with food.

While a counterfeit designer bag may be easy to spot, an Angus beef burger that’s actually horse or pig meat is not. Arguably, the impact on the consumer is far greater when it comes to the food we eat.

Food fraud is more common that most of consumers would suspect, this issue came to light in January 2013 as part of the horse meat scandal. The meat had been advertised as beef, but after DNA testing, it was found to have undeclared or improperly labeled horse meat. In some cases up to 100% was horse meat and 23 out 27 samples also contained pig DNA.

As a result, the U.S Pharmacopeial developed a food fraud database to either report or consult if the products have the potential to be substituted.

Food companies need to take additional steps to protect themselves: 

Step 1: Prepare to Address Food Fraud Under BRC 7

For food processing facilities that are GFSI certified, food fraud has not been explicitly required to be considered as part of their Food Safety Management System (FSMS). That is, until BRC Food Standard Issue 7 does require a system to monitor and protect from food fraud starting July 1, 2015.




Step 2: Understand the Definition of Food Fraud

The BRC Standard defines food fraud as “Fraudulent and intentional substitution, dilution or addition to a product or raw material, or misrepresentation of the product or material, for the purpose of financial gain, by increasing the apparent value of the product or reducing the cost of its production.” 

Step 3: Update Food Safety Management System with Processes for Accessing Historical Data

All BRC certified sites have to consider food fraud as part of their FSMS, this must include a process to access information on historical and developing threats to the supply chain. The FSMS must identify threats which may lead to adulteration, and provide a documented vulnerability assessment on all raw food materials or groups of raw materials. By updating the FSMS food companies can then fully assess the potential risk of unintentional adulteration or substitution.

Step 4: Conduct a Thorough Food Faud Vulnerability Assessment

If we take the first part that requires access to information on historical and developing threats, then the Food Fraud Database would be the first resource that could be considered, the vulnerability assessment on the other hand might be a bit more challenging for most sites. This means that in addition to the chemical, physical, biological, allergen and potentially radiological hazards currently considered by food processor as part of their FSMS, they must also consider food fraud. 

Final Thoughts: 

Obviously, updating processes to mitigate the risk of food-fraud presents a much bigger challenge to food companies than me trying to convince my spouse to let me buy her the knockoff Prada handbag. However, the rollout of the BRC 7 update provides an ideal opportunity for food companies to improve their FSMS. 


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