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The Food Committee of the International Federation of Inspections Agencies (IFIA) has published the results of its second ‘Food Fraud and Traceability Survey’.

Caramel Chocolate

The survey asked food producers, manufacturers and retailers from around the world a series of 32 questions relating to food fraud and traceability in food supply chains.

The 2016 survey received 215 responses, down from 225 in 2015, with the majority of responders being located in Europe (65%), but with answers also being received from North and Latin America, India, Asia-Pacific and China. Most responders represented food manufacturing businesses (61%) and claimed to employ between 50 and 500 people (44%). 

Responders to the survey recognized the importance of traceability within food supply chains, with 81% of responders saying it was ‘very important’. Reasons for this recognition included consumer expectations, the work of NGOs and the media, and an acknowledgement that poor traceability left the business open to financial risk.

The risk of financial losses seems to be well-founded with only 44% saying they had experienced no losses in the previous twelve months and 10% reporting they had experienced high losses due to a lack of supply chain controls. In addition, 10% of responses also indicated that they had experienced high losses on account of food fraud, with 60% claiming no losses from food fraud. Overall, revenue losses due to food fraud and insufficient supply chain controls were down on 2015 figures but remained high. 

When looking at legal requirements relating to food traceability, 76% of responders indicated that obligations within their country were fully understood but only 60% said they were being fully implemented. Both responses showed a slight decrease from the results in 2015 but it should be acknowledged that 76% felt that, if fully implemented and understood, their country’s regulations were sufficient. Two-thirds of respondents located in China, India, Latin and North America reported significantly higher levels of poor implementation. 

In addition to questions over effective implementation, the survey also showed that, while product traceability systems were often in place within their businesses, the respondents did not necessarily have confidence in them. The survey showed that product traceability systems have been implemented in businesses both inside and outside the European Union (89% and 80% respectively), with most including raw materials. Despite this, and with an acknowledgement that poor supply chain transparency risks damaging consumer confidence and financial solvency, only 56% claimed to have full confidence in their own traceability systems.

On a positive note, the survey did show that certification schemes are increasingly becoming an important factor for businesses when choosing suppliers. In 2015, only 48% of respondents stated that GFSI certification was a ‘very important’ factor when choosing suppliers, this number has increased to 60% in 2016. A similar trend is also observed when looking at the use of third-party food testing and inspection services – in 2015 only 79% felt it was ‘important’ or ‘very important’, that figure rose to 92% in 2016.

To conclude, the survey shows that, while businesses are aware of the necessity for full traceability within food supply chains, there is still a long way to go before all ingredients can be successfully traced back to their origin. In addition, the survey also found that, while regulations exist to combat food fraud and improve traceability, they are not currently being fully implemented.

The link to the 2017 IFIA survey on Food Fraud and Traceability is open until the end of 2017, we encourage all food industry participants to complete the survey.

For the complete range of SGS services and support visit SGS Food Safety.

Anna Theil-Gangl
Vice President, Global Food Compliance and Analytics
t: +43 1 512 25 678901