UK Report Uncovers ‘Significant’ Economic Impact of Food Fraud

by Ella

A recent report from the United Kingdom highlights the substantial cost of food fraud in the country, outlining various forms of deception within the food industry. The analysis reveals that the financial toll of food fraud extends to consumers, businesses, and the government, ranging from £410 million ($504 million) to £1.96 billion ($2.4 billion) annually.

The economic burden on businesses, when factoring in prevention costs, amounts to £268 million ($330 million) per year, surpassing the government’s financial burden of £84 million ($103 million) and individuals’ burden of £58 million ($71 million).


When excluding prevention costs, the average expense is estimated at £87,000 ($107,000) for minor cases and £4.3 million ($5.3 million) for significant cases. The cost of each case can range from £16,000 ($19,700) to £151,000 ($186,000) for minor incidents and between £423,000 ($520,000) and £7.2 million ($8.8 million) for more significant cases, depending on the type of food and the nature of the crime.


Notably, fraud incidents related to meat or alcoholic beverages tend to incur higher costs, with some of the most expensive cases involving the diversion of meat and fish unsuitable for consumption due to the sheer volume of food involved.


The report indicates that 610 food crime intelligence reports were processed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2021, but the actual number of cases in the UK could be as high as 3,050 each year.


The study adopted three approaches to formulate the food crime cost model: reviewing relevant publicly available reports, conducting 24 interviews with individuals from diverse organizations, and gathering data from a survey of 700 small businesses, with the base year set as 2021.

In 2021, the operational cost of the National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) was £5.8 million ($7.1 million).

Interestingly, the research did not uncover any instances of food fraud in the large business sector. The findings suggest that much of the industry has built resilience to fraud by investing in quality and regulatory compliance controls, including testing to identify non-compliance.

However, the small business sector remains vulnerable to food fraud, despite having lower incidence rates. The report emphasizes that food businesses play a crucial role as the first line of defense against fraud and underscores the importance of supporting them in this regard.

Emily Miles, founder of the FSA, emphasized the role of food businesses in combating food fraud, stating, “Food businesses are the first and most important line of defense, and we want to support them. This is one of the reasons we launched a working group to explore whether some areas of our collective response to food crime can be improved. Together, we’re making it easier to share intelligence and information by helping people in the food system to share their concerns with us freely and confidentially.”

The FSA has also taken steps to address food fraud, such as launching a whistleblower hotline to report suspected cases. Additionally, the agency is expanding its collaboration with third-party assurance schemes that are willing to share data to help prevent food fraud. Details of businesses removed from these schemes will be shared to enhance transparency and oversight.

Another report emphasized the need to complement existing food fraud prevention efforts and strengthen defenses against fraudulent activities. This involves increasing routine surveillance, promoting transparency, imposing stricter penalties for fraud, offering guidance, and enhancing education within the industry. The report acknowledges that there is no single solution to eliminate food fraud, given its complex nature and various contributing factors. Effective food fraud prevention strategies require a multifaceted approach.



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