Food fraud breaks consumer trust

Image: 123RF/ mukhina1

Food fraud is on the rise and needs our urgent attention on all levels.

Food categories that are especially vulnerable to food fraud are fish, seafood, liquids, spices, fruits, vegetables and meat products.

Some may believe that food fraud is a victimless crime. This is not so.

First, what is at stake is the entire food economy. For any food business to grow and offer high-quality food products, it requires consumer trust. If trust is lost, then everything the industry is trying to accomplish will become more challenging. Why would consumers pay more for a product they deem fraudulent?

Most food companies are ethically sound, but you only need a few cases of food fraud to damage the reputation of an entire industry.

Consumers with allergies and/or food intolerances are likely to feel more vulnerable than other consumers when it comes to food fraud. Consequently, it is as much a socioeconomic issue as it is a public health one.

Consumers should adopt caution when shopping and visiting restaurants. If a product is much cheaper at one outlet, perhaps the deal is too good to be true. Our government also has an important role to play in preventing food fraud. Regulators should encourage consumers to come forward with anonymous tips. Also, the government should establish research centres that could help with random testing to detect problematic sectors affected by food fraud.

This is where our focus should be - rather than attacking and looting foreigners who own businesses in SA.

Mahmoud Rangila

Isipingo Hills