Food law and enforcement

Food crime

Guide

Food crime is serious fraud that impacts the safety or the authenticity of food, drink or animal feed. It can be seriously harmful to consumers, food businesses and the wider food industry.

The Food Standard Agency's National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) works to prevent, detect and investigate food crime across the UK.

Types of food crimes

The NFCU focuses its work on seven types of food crime:

  • theft - dishonestly obtaining food, drink or feed products to profit from their use or sale
  • unlawful processing - slaughtering or preparing meat and related products in unapproved premises or using unauthorised techniques
  • waste diversion - illegally diverting food, drink or feed meant for disposal, back into the supply chain
  • adulteration - including a foreign substance which is not on the product's label to lower costs or fake a higher quality
  • substitution - replacing a food or ingredient with another substance that is similar but inferior
  • misrepresentation - marketing or labelling a product to wrongly portray its quality, safety, origin or freshness
  • document fraud - making, using and possessing false documents with the intent to sell or market a fraudulent or substandard product

Preventing food crime

Food crime can occur in various ways. It can range from isolated acts of dishonesty by individual offenders to organised illegal activity co-ordinated by criminal networks.

Food crime can be reduced by denying offenders the means to commit offences, or by reducing the likelihood of individuals and groups becoming offenders in the first place.

The NFCU works with the food industry to ensure that businesses are well-informed of food crime risks and are capable of implementing measures to protect themselves from food crime.

Ensuring the food production, food manufacturing and retail sectors are hostile environments to individuals or groups intent on offending is key to preventing food crime.

Reporting food crime

Members of the public and those working in the food and drink sector can speak up about food crime through Food Crime Confidential.

Suspicions or information about food crime in Northern Ireland should be reported to FSA by emailing incidents.ni@food.gov.uk or by contacting FSA on Tel 028 9041 7700 and asking to speak with the Food Fraud Liaison Officer.

Instances where there is no deliberate dishonesty or intention to deceive should instead be reported to the relevant local authority.

Food Fraud Resilience Self-Assessment tool

The NFCU has developed a food fraud resilience self-assessment tool to support businesses in developing and implementing their counter-fraud strategy. The self-assessment tool covers different areas that businesses will need to be aware of so that they can better identify and address process issues.