Fake Fairtrade and Ethical Goods ‘Could be Next Food Industry Scandal’

Criminals honing in on the food industry and growing shopper interest in ‘ethical’ goods means that fake Fairtrade products could potentially become the next big food fraud scandal, warns Europol.

A report on counterfeiting by the European law enforcement agency stated that fraudsters were looking to target everyday goods including food and drink, and highlighted Fairtrade and organic goods as risk areas.

Fake organic goods were already a growing problem for the food industry, Europol said, and other certification labels – specifically Fairtrade – could see similar issues in the future.

“In 2013, Fairtrade product sales reached £1.5bn in the UK alone, reflecting the growing willingness of consumers to pay an ethical price for goods,” the report stated. “The certification label can be easily replicated and affixed to products by experienced counterfeiters who want to sell products at higher retail prices and therefore it may be targeted increasingly.”

The Fairtrade Foundation responded that it had robust supply chain controls in place – including a 15-strong product integrity and mark management team – to ensure the authenticity of Fairtrade-certified goods.

David Meller, Fairtrade director of product integrity, stressed that the Foundation had “an active campaigner base” that was acutely aware of who offered legitimate Fairtrade products. “They alert us if they see companies claiming to be Fairtrade when they are not – and we take all such allegations extremely seriously.”

The Europol report also warned counterfeiters were increasingly interested in everyday goods – including food and drink. In the past, the majority of counterfeiting efforts focused on fake luxury goods and pharmaceuticals.

Europol also said while China remained the biggest source of counterfeit products coming to Europe, a growing number of fakes were being produced inside the European Union (EU) and neighbouring countries. For food and drink specifically, Turkey and Egypt were responsible for a large share of counterfeit products, it added.

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