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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Systemic Fraud – closer than it appears in the mirror

A reported fraud that is not easily detectable through routine detection methods:
Report Source:

This report stated:
“The three manufacturers have bought the industrial-grade magnesium carbonate, which is not edible for possibly containing heavy metals, in order to save money, according to Yeh.

One bottle of pepper powder contains about 3 percent magnesium carbonate and it is difficult to identify the ingredient with the naked eye, Yeh said, adding that the bureau has produced a list of the downstream buyers, located all over Taiwan, Yeh added. “

Past reported cases of fraud in a highly policed environment: 
"Sturgeon caviar"from Mississippi paddlefish; "sheep's milk" cheese from cow's milk; etc. These are regrettable instances of food fraud. What is more unfortunate is that food fraud is only a small fraction of fraudulent activities in the food industry. Some fraudulent activities are condoned and even promoted as necessities. 

The advice to the industry include: Test to detect fraud; collect data and information on incidences of fraud; etc. but the fraudsters are continuing to taunt: “catch us if you can” -!

Aiding, abetting or even participating in FRAUD and crying "FOWL" is NONSENSE:

In times past, highway robbers offered options such as: “Your money or your life” and they honoured your choice. These days, robbers seem to have moved from the highways into many unexpected food fraud enclaves and offer no options. Without warning, they rob us of our money and our lives in some instances.

Many players in the food and health sectors are working very hard. Slugging it are operators and their employees, regulators, scientists, auditors, consultants, educators, trainers, associations, advocacy groups, and many more. These are all working hard but it would be wrong to simply equate boisterous activity with meaningful progress. With everything that is happening, any claim that we are making progress ignores the reality. We cannot legitimately make that claim while we have:
–  Numerous reported cases of food fraud; 
–  Incessant recalls; 
–  Unfair competition; 
–  The sale of counterfeit and unhealthy products or services (including the sale of superficial food safety assessment and training programs);
–  Systematic entrapment of companies into paying for services and programs that do not offer what they claim to offer; 
–  Poorly monitored processing operations;
–  Deceptive advertising;
– The sale of superficial solutions claimed to be technical assistance;
–  The practice of looking the other way by enforcement officers and systems assessors; 
– Cover-ups and “cover your back” activities, particularly during 3rd-party assessments
–  Apathy or laziness among employees that defraud employers . . .
The list is long and almost everyone subscribes to this folly in one form or another.
That person ignores the reality, if he or she assumes that “problems are caused only by ‘other’ people or companies”. Fraudulent practices or tendencies permeate all of society and very few are they, if there are any, who are not infected or affected by fraud. To think otherwise is to deny the undeniable. Reality denial also causes some people to think they are free to do as they please. A warped sense of independence or freedom could be blamed for this kind of thinking. This errant way of thinking also leads to the plague-like selfishness behind the question: "What is in it for me?" While there is nothing wrong with this question, the implicit attitude has grown into a destructive obsession among many players in the industry. Too many industry participants are strutting about assuming the freedom they do not have.

Fraud - A Broad-Scoped Problem:
It is both unrealistic and irresponsible for individuals to think they  are free and can mind their own business with an insular focus that only seeks self-gratification.  It is socially irresponsible for anyone to work only for financial or other selfish gain. There may be chuckles and some may ask “for what else should a person work?” Ironically, things that are done for selfish gain serve to encourage similar selfish practices. Besides, the perpetrators of selfish practices are not exempt from the adverse consequences of such practices by others. For example, the fraudster owner or manager of a food company could end up buying counterfeit medicines from a fraudster owner or manager of a pharmaceutical company and vice versa. The inspector or auditor who looks the other way for any selfish reason could buy products from the establishments they inspect or from other establishments where the inspectors or auditors looked the other way for similar reasons. Industry trainers might be happy with the financial gains from providing superficial training to the workers who make the products that they could end up buying. Production line employees who feel it is a bother to wash their hands before handling ready-to-eat products right after wiping their noses could end up eating products from other establishments where the employees felt and did the same thing. The delivery truck driver who allows refrigerated product temperature to rise above safe levels but has developed some tactics of making temperature readings appear acceptable at the points of delivery could end up consuming products that were subjected to the same tactics by other drivers. The consumer who demands that retailers must ensure the products they buy are safe but turns around and treats the same products with carelessness commits self-punishing fraud. We must not chuckle at this. It is not a laughing matter. Rather, it calls for urgent and unrelenting cooperation and collaboration. 
We may decry the blatant fraud committed by those who have been caught but something much worse is happening systemically. Many destructive but essentially ignored forms of fraud are taking place in the food and health sector. The reality today is not good and it is not acceptable.

Your safety and satisfaction are at stake and you should not say: “let the government and the industry take care of these concerns”. You have a key role to play. We all do. Systemic fraud is closer to home than we might imagine and the war against it is gathering force. Please join us! Join the Coalition
Posted By Felix Amiri
Felix Amiri is currently the chair of GCSE-Food & Health Protection. He is also the Director of Technical Services at Amiri Food Industry Support Services (AFISS) and the Canada/U.S representative for the World Food Safety Organisation.

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