USP Develops New Tool to Assess Vulnerabilities for Food Fraud

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Proposed guidance document provides a preventative framework for dealing with economic adulteration of food ingredients

Lifecycle of Food Fraud Mitigation

"The document has the potential to serve as a common reference point to speak about food fraud."

The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) pre-released today a first-of-its-kind guidance document that offers a framework for the food industry and regulators to develop and implement preventive management systems to deal specifically with economically-motivated fraudulent adulteration of food ingredients (EMA).

“The aim of this guidance is to provide a tool to assist manufacturers and regulators in how to identify the most fraud vulnerable ingredients in their supply chains and how to choose effective mitigation tools to combat EMA,” said Jeff Moore, Ph.D., senior scientific liaison at USP. “The real challenge in preventing EMA is its unpredictable nature, and our guidance represents a leap forward in overcoming this hurdle. The output from implementing this tool provides users with a basis for making informed, vulnerability-based decisions on how to deal with EMA within their organizations.”

The guidance document, titled “Guidance on Food Fraud Mitigation”, was designed to be generally applicable to any food ingredient, and any food fraud management system that can be developed from this framework should be viewed as a dynamic and continuous process, involving characterization of food fraud vulnerabilities, contributing factors and impacts assessments, followed by design and review of a mitigation strategy and its implementation.

The guidance provides a comprehensive step-wise approach for preventing EMA at the ingredient level. It allows individual assessment of all the indicators and factors known to contribute to fraud vulnerabilities and impacts, as well as qualitative tools to make sense of the results. Contributing factors included in the tool go beyond fraud history and include economic and geopolitical anomalies, audit strategies, and supply chain and supplier characteristics.

Impact assessments are used in the guidance to characterize the potential consequences of EMA when it does occur by using a framework that separates out food safety and economic impacts – an important consideration for organizations that have different risk tolerances. The guidance also provides illustrative examples and publicly available information resources for carrying out vulnerability assessments, including the USP Food Fraud Database, launched in 2012.

Together, the overall vulnerability assessment should provide a more complete picture to users to guide the development of a mitigation strategy that reallocates resources to the most vulnerable ingredients and/or gaps in their food supply chains.

“The value of this document, especially for regulators, is in benchmarking discussions about food fraud with industry and other stakeholders. Whether the focus is on the economic impact or public health aspects, the document has the potential to serve as a common reference point to speak about food fraud,” says Markus Lipp, PhD, senior director of food ingredients at USP.

Early comments and suggestions may be sent to Jeff Moore at jm(at)usp(dot)org. The official public comment period starts on December 31, 2014 through the FCC Forum, USP’s free, online resource that gives users the opportunity to review and comment on proposed changes to the Food Chemicals Codex (FCC), a compendium of food ingredients quality standards, reference materials and guideline documents. The public comment period ends on March 31, 2015.

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Claudia Costabile
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