From the horse meat scandal in Europe in 2013 to seafood, food fraud is a growing problem worldwide. According to the World Customs Organization, food fraud is costing $49 billion annually. As the global food supply chain widens, the challenges of safeguarding our food supply have increased and more advanced fraud detection procedures are needed.
Food is a basic need and requirement for all humans because of such importance it needs to be wholesome and safe. Regular consumption of meat made us human, as it is thought to have triggered major changes in the human lineage, the genus Homo, with this high-protein food supporting large human brains.
Protein is the building block of all muscle in our bodies. Today many people may think of this as the large defined muscles we see in athletes. This is true but there is much more to the story. Animal protein also helps us develop the other “less noticed muscles” such as our eyes, lungs, brain and other organs. High quality protein and the right type (as originating from animals) were absolutely necessary for mankind to continue progression.
The practice of adulteration of food is a serious threat to public health of the members of community. From the consumer point of view, firstly, he is paying more money for a foodstuff of lower quality and secondly, some forms of adulteration are injurious to health, even resulting to death. It is estimated that more than 200 diseases are spread through the medium of food.
Secondly, the livestock farmers too are in serious trouble as this adulteration threatens the very source of their livelihoods because they are not paid the true value their animals. This serious problem in the meat industry needs to be tackled to ensure the authenticity of meat products. There seven distinct kinds of food fraud as listed below:
• Adulteration: A component of the finished product is fraudulent.
• Tampering: Legitimate product and packaging are used in a fraudulent way.
• Overrun: Legitimate product is made in excess of production agreements.
• Theft: Legitimate product is stolen and passed off as legitimately procured.
• Diversion: The sale or distribution of legitimate products outside of intended markets.
• Simulation: Illegitimate product is designed to look like, but not exactly copy, the legitimate product.
• Counterfeit: All aspects of the fraudulent product and packaging are fully replicated.
Economically Motivated Adulteration
Food fraud includes economically motivated adulteration, called EMA by some experts. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines EMA as the “fraudulent, intentional substitution or addition of a substance in a product for the purpose of increasing the apparent value of the product or reducing the cost of its production.” EMA is a food defense issue because, by definition, it is an intentional act. More significantly, it is a criminal act, because it is perpetrated by individuals who defraud the public for economic gain.
For example, stories are told in Kampala and beyond by travellers who consume the much loved roast meat “muchomo” by road side or at kiosks which could easily have been a dog passed on as goat meat or wild birds like marabou stork commonly known as ‘karoli’ being passed off as chicken. One wonders, “Where do all the sheep slaughtered in the abattoirs around the country end up?” The answer is that they are sold as goat meat which is fraudulent.
The ability to detect less desirable or objectionable species in meat products is important not only for economic, health, religious, and ethical reasons; but also to ensure fair trade and compliance with legislation.
Whereas the speciation of cooked meat is difficult since the heat treatment during cooking causes extensive changes within the meat tissue, detection of meat species by fast and accurate methods should routinely be carried out for the quality control as well as a public task to secure the food safety all over the world.
There is a need to strengthen livestock recording and identification systems including establishing a National Livestock Identification and Information Management System (NLIIMS) as well as strengthening the veterinary services. Veterinary officers should equally have police powers.
Traders, sellers of meat or any other animal products must be compelled to label their products correctly stating basic information about the meat being sold like; breed/type of animal slaughter, age, source of origin etc. in order not to mislead the consumers. This is should be reinforced by impromptu on spot meat quality inspection at sales points.
Consumers need to be made aware of their rights through public awareness campaigns so that customers should not be cheated in the market place. There should be a consumer protection agency working with the national bureau of standards
To conclude, realizing the scope of adulteration and the associated detrimental effects on the health of a consumer, there is an urgent need to formulate sound and holistic strategies including but not limited to policy and legislation to enhance the food safety standards.