Food Fraud and Mitigating Strategies of UK Food Supply Chain during COVID-19

Soon-Sinclair, Jan Mei orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0488-1434, Nyarugwe, Shingai orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-2245-2388 and Jack, Lisa (2023) Food Fraud and Mitigating Strategies of UK Food Supply Chain during COVID-19. Food Control, 148 . ISSN 0956-7135

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Covid-19 had shown the vulnerability of the food supply chain and fraudsters may take advantage of the pandemic whilst the population needed a continuous supply of safe and quality food. The lack of monitoring and policing in the food supply chain may encourage fraudsters to upscale their operations. Previous studies had warned of a surge in fraudulent products due to COVID-19. This raised the question on whether food fraud had increased during the pandemic? This study aims to investigate food fraud during COVID-19 and how the food supply chain develops mitigating strategies against fraudulent activities. A mixed-method approach including survey and semistructured interviews were conducted among UK food businesses. Two hundred and two agri-food businesses responded to the survey and 15 semi-structured interviews were conducted. The majority of the food businesses did not experience an increase of food fraud activities during COVID19. Two thematic domains and ten sub-themes were identified from the data set. There was a heightened sense of anticipation and preparation for increased fraudulent activities during the pandemic. The main risk mitigating strategies included horizon scanning; developing and maintaining supplier relationship and assurance; understanding product characteristics, testing capabilities, conducting vulnerability assessments and training. Practical and cost-effective strategies for small and medium food businesses were recommended. This is the first empirical study on food fraud and mitigating strategies of the UK food supply chain during the pandemic. Our findings provide evidence for informing the policies and practices of the food regulatory authorities as well as best practices to protect the UK food supply chain against food fraud during exogenous shocks like COVID-19.

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