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Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Subduing the Attitude of Surrender in the War against Food Fraud

Responding to the LinkedIn article by Dr. Sylvain Charlebois (see the full reference link below), I provided this comment:
 “ ‘ . . eliminating food fraud will give the entire food industry a chance to become more sustainable...’ This is a very hopeful statement. Some think that a complete elimination is not possible, that only a reduction to an acceptable level is possible. But what is an "acceptable level" of fraud?  I subscribe to the school of thought that recommends a complete elimination goal through continuous reduction strategies whereby every effort is made to retain conquered territories. The work may never be done but it is not to be pursued with a resignation of hopelessness. I also see the futility of fighting only the symptoms (specific instances of committed fraud) instead of systematically tackling the root cause. The SSQA concept provides such a systematic approach based on some basic facts, realities and dynamics that are both known and seen to be at play. . .”

This blog post, though it expands upon the comment above, only introduces the SSQA approach. The GCSE-FHP SSQA fraud prevention approach involves a commitment to: “. . . subduing the attitude of surrender and harnessing the power of positive influence” [SSQA Development and Implementation Manual,Section 2.4.7]. 

The role of regulatory and law enforcement agencies in the war against food fraud is recognized with the SSQA concept but it places the onus largely on the individual food companies. The use of emerging scientific and technological developments in fraud detection is also recognized. The main SSQA focus, however, is on systematically attacking the root cause of fraud. 

Detecting and dealing with fraud perpetrators have their place but the premise of the SSQA approach is this: Fraud would not need to be detected if it was not committed.

While the SSQA fraud prevention approach reflects the understanding that the food fraud war cannot be won on paper, it emphasizes that the war can be won. As reflected in the commitment statement, the SSQA approach clearly rejects any sentiments of surrender. Where SSQA is implemented, there is no yielding to a presumed inevitability of food fraud in the same way that crime is presumed to be inevitable in many societies.

SSQA implementation also goes along with the understanding that a war that is partially waged against an evasive enemy cannot be won. Hence SSQA fraud prevention principles are implemented with the determined intention of winning the war on all fronts. Pursuits with expectations of only partial success are regarded to be pointless under the SSQA approach.

A detailed explanation of how to actively pursue the stated commitment is provided in the SSQA Implementation Manual, Section 2.4.7. The key differences between crime (including organized crime) and food fraud provide the basis for the optimism that the war against food fraud can be won. These differences are explained along with strategies for harnessing the de facto positive realities and dynamics already at play in many companies. One of the pre-existing advantages explained is that many people withing the industry are already more pre-disposed to doing the right things than otherwise.

Part of the SSQA Manual explanation also points out that resources need to be efficiently channelled into fighting the real enemies instead of shadows or the “volcanic eruptions” as one of the other post puts it. The futility of fighting only the symptoms is perhaps the cause of the hopelessness that is often expressed by some well-meaning people. At best, only a temporary reprieve can be achieved with sporadic band-aid solutions. There may be many cores at different depths wherever fraud perpetrator operate but getting to the core of the problem in each instance gives greater hope that this war against food fraud can be won.

References:
  1. Charlebois, S., Dr. (2016, March 15). The Food Authenticity Killers. Retrieved March 15, 2016, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/food-authenticity-killers-dr-sylvain-charlebois
  1. Global Consumer Protection SSQA Development and Implementation: A Manual for the Food Industry [PDF]. (2014). Mount Forest: A.F.I.S.S. Website: http://www.afisservices.com/gcse-fhp/SSQAFullManual.html
Posted by Felix Amiri
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Felix Amiri is currently the chair of GCSE-Food & Health Protection, and a sworn SSQA advocate.

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