May 18, 2016 — In 2013, the ‘horsemeat scandal’ sent tremors through the European food industry. The fraudulent replacement of beef with cheaper equine alternatives in burgers and convenience food left consumers and retailers reeling, alarmed that they had fallen victim to the largest food fraud in decades.
The scandal not only highlighted the shortcuts being made by food manufacturers in their attempts to compete for the lowest price, it emphasized the complexity of global food supply chains and the challenges in monitoring every step. Almost overnight, the importance of traceability—the ability to track any food through all stages of production, processing and distribution—became high on public and political agendas.
‘Food scandals’ can leave consumers feeling duped, misled and distrustful of retailers and brands. They can also lead to people eating foods that violate their religious or moral values; or worse still have impacts on their health.
Recognizing the negative impacts of incorrect labelling, governments around the world have responded. The Food Standards Agency in the UK, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Food Safety Authority and Food Standards Australia New Zealand, to name a few, commit extensive resources to ensuring the safety and correct labelling of our food. But the problem persists—and responsibility is often laid at the feet of food suppliers.