Sunday, November 11, 2012


Cheating the consumer for making a fast buck is a universal phenomenon, whether in India, China or the US. While consumers can absorb occasional sub-par quality products marketed by some unscrupulous players, it assumes critical dimension when such foods can pose serious health hazards. For example adding water to milk is not directly dangerous
but concocting a milk look alike product made from urea, detergents etc can be really reprehensible and indefensible.
It is interesting that most risky foods churned out by fraudsters posing health risks are more prevalent in developing countries like India while counterfeit foods with doubtful quality are seen more in developed countries. This may probably due to more efficient surveillance and modern infrastructure seen in wealthy countries. According to a recent study economic fraud is more prevalent globally with high priced products like olive oil, saffron, honey etc though mass consumed products do not lag very much behind. Here is an informative piece of report on the subject.  

"Some fear higher world food prices are making food counterfeiting the next big global trend. Counterfeit food is a way to steal millions and put food safety at extreme risk. Obviously, anyone willing to rip off valued brands or products to manufacture counterfeit food outside of any the regulation of any country does not give a rip about food safety. Interpol Police have recently turned up candy bards, fish, cheese, and tomato sauce—all phony—foods that could have ended up in the U.S. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has its own police force for tackling fraudulent foods and drugs. Counterfeit drugs get most of the attention. The World Bank says consumers pay $30 billion annually for fake drugs with Africa being the hardest. Estimates for how much consumers pay for fake food are a little more fluid. At last month's 9th Annual Anti-Counterfeiting and Brand Protection Summit held in Midtown West, NY, a fact sheet from DuPont said counterfeiting cost U.S. businesses $200 billion to $250 billion annually, affecting 92 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Food and beverages are only a slice of that, of course, but consider that Russia has documented $3.3 billion in annual losses due just to counterfeit vodka, the total for food and beverage products would probably be staggering".

If the above report is to be believed the cost of counterfeiting branded foods and drugs is staggering with many major brand owners suffering financially from this under-ground activities of fraudsters. More concerned should be the consumers who are cheated out of their hard earned money by enticing them to buy cheaper foods. Can this criminal activity ever be stopped? Probably not as many experts believe that it would be a logistical nightmare if taken up seriously and it is impossible to eliminate frauds completely. A possible option could be to increase the severity of punishment meted out to the food fraudsters such a way it has a strong deterrent effect on those contemplating committing such frauds.


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