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FOOD FRAUD AND COMBATING COUNTERFEIT PRODUCTS: LEGAL STRATEGIES FOR COMBATING FOOD FRAUDULENT PRACTICES

INTRODUCTION

Food fraud and counterfeit products are not new issues we have encountered. We have studied about it since we were children but the problems associated with these acts seem to be increasing. Food fraud can be defined as any deliberate action of businesses or individuals to deceive others regarding the integrity of the food to gain undue advantage.[1] There are various types of food fraud which include dilution, unapproved enhancement, mislabelling and substitution and so on.  Counterfeit products on the other hand include the replication of popular brand products in an unauthorised manner, often with substandard quality.

Food fraud is so prevalent in the market that it can be seen in the cases of coffee, olive oil, honey, saffron, etc. Since it is so deeply rooted that at the end of the day, it impacts people negatively. There have been many cases from the side of consumers that by consuming products suffered from allergies some of these allergies can be life-threatening. Not only does food fraud impacts our economy, and businesses, but also impacts consumers’ dietary requirement due to adulteration. In the case of counterfeit products, it impacts the global arena as it has been said that American shoppers are the ones who tend to purchase height share of counterfeit products to around 60 %to 80%.[2] This is one of the reasons why consumers at the end of the day lose trust in the brands they once adored. It threatens brand image while having a negative financial impact on the brand.

The purpose of this blog is to delve into the topic of food fraud and combating counterfeit products. We will focus on legal strategies that have been adopted to combat these fraudulent practices to help consumers and ensure their well-being.

LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR COMBATING FOOD FRAUD

To effectively combat the issue of food fraud we need to make sure that we have a strong legal framework to deal with the fraudulent activities going on around us. Our government has made laws and enacted acts that are beneficial to prevent, detect and prosecute these wrongdoings. Some of the steps taken by our government include the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, of 1954.[3] This act provides us with guidelines under which food will be considered adulterated. Some of these include if the food is made under unhygienic conditions, if any diseased animal is used for preparing it, or if a food contains any poisonous substance[4] which can hamper well-being of an individual. Not only this another step taken by our government includes the establishment of the Food Safety and Security Authority of India (FSSAI) under the Food Safety and Security Act 2006.[5] This Act ensures a single food quality platform for various food products. Some of its functions include collecting data regarding food consumption and the prevalence of its biological risk, providing training to individuals who would involve in the food business, and promoting awareness regarding food standards. An online platform named DART[6] has been set up.  It stands to Detect Adulteration with Rapid Tests and is used for checking the quality of various food articles like oils, grains, milk, and so on. These are some of the steps taken by our government to ensure our health and prevent us from food fraud and counterfeit products.

ENHANCING LEGAL STRATEGIES

Enhancing legal strategies according to the circumstances will always help us to deal with food fraud and counterfeit products. Since the world is developing at a faster pace as well as the mind of criminals and new technologies might help us to save ourselves from the above issues and it might help criminals too to come up with better plans. There are wide varieties of complexities in cases regarding food fraud and counterfeit products. To deal with such circumstances we can make strict penalties that will deter the criminals from doing such an act and will send a message to those individuals that their acts will not be tolerated. The main goal of the organization should be to take the help of emerging technologies so that they can only become a hard target.[7] Not only is this a global issue which means international collaboration among regulatory bodies might help us to fight against our problem. We can implement enhanced traceability systems and make our legal strategies more robust. As these systems can help with various levels of authentication and trace the origin and movement of food products throughout the supply chain. Not only this we can provide training to the consumers about the risks associated with food fraud and counterfeit products. So, they can vigilantly make their choices and opt for safe and authentic products.

PROSECUTION AND PENALTIES

To deal with the individuals who are involved in activities related to food fraud or counterfeit products. We can impose strict prosecution and penalties to deter from committing an act in this aspect. By defining the offences and referring to the elements related to each offence, we can work on the legal framework to make it more robust. By making the legal framework more comprehensive we can pursue legal action against perpetrators. Food fraud can lead to both civil and criminal liabilities. Civil penalties often involve monetary fines or administrative actions while criminal penalties involve prosecution which may result in fines, imprisonment, or both. To deal with criminals in a better fashion both regulatory bodies and law enforcement agencies can come together and discuss and share information and expertise and can ensure successful investigations, prosecutions, and convictions. These convictions can protect consumers and the help of campaigns as discussed earlier can help the individuals or public in general to make more informed choices. India does not have a specific act regarding counterfeit goods but the intellectual property law in India envisages provisions that prohibit counterfeiting as it is directly linked to the IPR rights of the aggrieved individual.[8] So, to ensure the safety of the public and the authenticity of food products we can strengthen our prosecution efforts to deter them from wrongdoing and emphasize the importance of meaningful penalties.

BUILDING CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

As we discussed earlier the disastrous impact of food fraud on individuals as it can impose health risks for the consumers if hazardous materials are mixed into food products. Now we know consumers are becoming aware of all the fraudulent activities related to food fraud and counterfeit products. So, making consumers trust the authenticity of the product will strengthen the food system and will promote transparency. By providing clear and accurate labelling we can build consumer confidence. Any business can be transparent by being open and honest about its products and services.[9] Since so many fraudulent activities are going on in the market. So, one can do is stand for their product’s expertise and provide accurate data. We can build consumer confidence by developing a strong brand. A well-established brand always turns out to be more reliable. Not, only this can answer the concerns of customers promptly might help in building consumer confidence. To combat food fraud, we can teach customers about how to read food labels, identify signs of adulteration, and where to inform these. So that preventive steps can be taken against fraudulent activities.

CONCLUSION

In this blog, named “Food Fraud and Combating Counterfeit Products: Legal Strategies for Combating Food Fraudulent Activities”. We have paid attention to what is food fraud as it involves intentional deception and adulteration of food products for economic gain. It can be a threat to public health and consumer trust. A strong legal framework is also essential to tackle food fraud and counterfeit products. Our government has set up the PFA Act, of 1954, and FSSAI under the Food Safety and Security Act. We have discussed these and we talked about what steps can be taken by us to enhance our legal strategies like incorporating strong penalties enhancing traceability systems and so on. Effective prosecution and penalties might help us to deter the individuals from committing these fraudulent messages lastly, we focused on building consumer confidence by providing consumers with transparency, answering their queries correctly and promptly, and informing individuals about what steps can be taken by the consumers to combat food fraud and safeguard public health.

Author(s) Name: Ishika Kaur (Amity University, Noida)

Reference(s):

[1] ‘Food Fraud’ (Knowledge for policy, 14 Jan 2020) <https://knowledge4policy.ec.europa.eu/food-fraud-quality/topic/food-fraud_en#:~:text=CX%2FFICS%2018%2F24%2F,simulation%2C%20counterfeiting%2C%20and%20misrepresentation> accessed 16 June 2023

[2] Keith Goldstein, ‘The Global Impact Of Counterfeiting And Solutions To Stop It’ (Forbes, 2 Aug 2022) <https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2022/08/02/the-global-impact-of-counterfeiting-and-solutions-to-stop-it/?sh=709f43da1ca2> accessed 16 June 2023

[3] The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1954

[4]‘Food Adulteration and Laws for its Prevention in India’(Samajho, January 2021) <https://samajho.com/upsc/food-adulteration-and-laws-for-its-prevention-in-india/> accessed 16 June 2023

[5] The Food Safety and Standards Act 2006

[6] Ibid

[7] ‘How to Reduce the Risks of Food Fraud With the Right Food Traceability and Anti-counterfeiting Solution’ (OPTEL) <https://www.optelgroup.com/en/blog/how-to-reduce-the-risks-of-food-fraud-with-the-right-food-traceability-and-anti-counterfeiting-solution/> accessed 17 June 2023

[8] ‘Legal action against fake goods’ (S.S. Rana & Co, 18 Mar 2021 )<https://ssrana.in/litigation/ip-litigation/legal-action-against-fake-goods/> accessed 17 June 2023

[9] Matteo Talarico, ‘Ten Methods To Increase Customer Confidence And Grow Your Business’ (Forbes, 12 Apr 2023) <https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2023/04/12/ten-methods-to-increase-customer-confidence-and-grow-your-business/?sh=664ccbd98c27> accessed 17 June 2023