The aim of food fraud prevention is that consumers can be confident that the imported products are safe and authentic. The collaborative project of Finnish Customs, the Finnish Food Authority and municipal food control authorities enhances the detection of food fraud in cross-border traffic. The focus was particularly on spices, fresh berries and meat products.
Food fraud is an international phenomenon involving organised crime. Fraud is often committed for financial gain. According to an estimate, food fraud costs the EU 8–12 billion euros annually. The collaborative anti-food fraud project of Finnish Customs, the Finnish Food Authority and municipal food control authorities is a part of the strategy to combat the shadow economy.
In addition to national cooperation, Finnish Customs is involved in multifaceted international cooperation to combat and detect food fraud.
– Regarding anti-fraud-related food controls, the food consignments to be inspected are selected e.g. on the basis of our data-based risk analysis, to make the controls as efficient as possible. As for the role of Finnish Customs, the main emphasis is on controls on commercial imports, but during the pilot we detected a new phenomenon, commercial food imports disguised as personal imports by private individuals. In those cases, food safety measures are completely evaded, which is a major concern for consumer safety, says Project Manager Paula Kangas at Finnish Customs.
National cooperation to tackle food fraud is very important.
– The Finnish Food Authority governs and develops national food controls in Finland. The competent authority, usually a municipal official, controls in its own area of responsibility the compliance and safety of imported food regularly and based on risks in connection with other food controls. Controls are conducted at all stages of food production, processing and distribution. To investigate suspected food fraud detected by controls, the food control authorities cooperate with other authorities. The results of the pilot show that the intensified cooperation between Finnish Customs, the Finnish Food Authority and municipal food control authorities significantly increases the possibilities to intervene at the right time and efficiently in cases of illegal food consignments from the internal market, says Satu Virtaranta at the Finnish Food Authority.
Municipal food control authorities have been actively involved in the prevention of food fraud in different cities, towns and municipalities. Within the project, municipalities have been involved both in control operations and in the implementation of the intensified controls on berries.
Intensified controls on spices, berries and meat products
The goal of the collaborative project of Finnish Customs, the Finnish Food Authority and municipal food control authorities is to better tackle food fraud detected in cross-border traffic. The aim is that consumers can be confident that the imported products are safe and authentic. It is also essential to make consumers more aware of the safety-related issues in the food supply chain.
Three pilots involving intensified controls were carried out within the project.
- Import controls on colourful spices. The controls focused particularly on finding banned colourings that are hazardous to health but also on other non-compliances.
- Import controls on fresh berries. The controls focused on the origin labelling for berries and the compliance with marketing standards.
- Import controls on meat products. The controls focused on checking the origin of the meat as well as on the combatting of African swine fever.
More information on the results of all these intensified controls will be released in the coming weeks.
The collaborative anti-food fraud project of Finnish Customs, the Finnish Food Authority and municipal food control authorities is a part of the strategy to combat the shadow economy. The primary purpose of the collaborative project that will end in early 2023 is to identify, combat and uncover food fraud in cross-border goods traffic. Food fraud is an international phenomenon involving organised crime, and according to an estimate, food fraud costs the EU 8–12 billion euros annually. Fraud harms both law-abiding operators in the food sector and the health and safety of citizens.
Paula Kangas, Project Manager, contacts via the Customs Media Service, tel. +358 295 527 150, viestinta(at)tulli.fi
The Finnish Food Authority
Satu Virtaranta, Senior Specialist, Section for planning of controls and prevention of agri-food crimes, tel. +358 50 518 6013, firstname.lastname(at)ruokavirasto.fi
Municipal food control authorities
City of Helsinki, Food Safety Unit, Pia Haltiala, Official Veterinarian, tel. +358 40 612 6640, pia.haltiala(at)hel.fi
Tampere regional environmental health authority, Paula Saarijärvi, Environmental Engineer, tel. +358 50 462 0477, paula.saarijarvi(at)tampere.fi