Rice grains, melons, food coloring agents, olive oil, garlic powder, processed meat and fish, etc. are some of the food products that have been adulterated in the past with non-food and often hazardous substances with the intention of generating profits at a margin of the cost. Food fraud investigation is not an easy task to achieve and is definitely not meant for the fainthearted. Being an undercover agent by blending in with the local population takes years of practice, skill, and most importantly—patience.
The following compilation is based on real-life experiences shared by fellow food fraud investigators, whose identities shall remain anonymous for security reasons, and deal with corruption—one of the least discussed and understudied areas of food fraud because, as seen by these few examples, it isn’t a pleasant topic.
Date: January 2005
Location: Sri Lanka
“I’ve taken up this assignment as a relief volunteer following the ghastly tsunami of December 2004. There were reports of food and water supplies not reaching the intended camps and the team felt it was opportune to act undercover. The intention was to not just collect data but to act as well—and we had to act quickly.
While I was at one of the relief camps, I noticed the food allocation wasn’t necessarily per protocol. A handful of ‘agent’ were involved in hoarding supplies to later have them either auctioned or sold to the highest bidder behind closed doors. Original packages would be removed and/or seals broken to dispense food and water into smaller containers which were later marked ‘for sale’. Desperation truly knows no bounds.”
About Judy Sebastian
Judy Sebastian, Food Quality & Safety's blogger, has a dual specialization in public health and safety and organizational development. Equipped with over 10 years of experience in food safety systems implementation, workplace culture assessments, and talent development strategies, she is passionate about global food culture and how it impacts our daily lives. Judy is a certified trainer and consultant with Dubai-based consultancy Apex Food Consultants and is currently based in Portland, Ore. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.