A shocking new report has found Australians are spending $3 billion on substituted, mislabelled, and fraudulent food.

AgriFutures Australia found Australians are deceptively being sold products containing low-quality ingredients compared to what they advertise.

While there isn’t an agreed upon worldwide definition of food fraud, the issue costs up to $50-billion-a-year globally and is a $3 billion problem in Australia.

A recent report found Australians are spending $3billion on substituted, mislabelled and fraudulent food products (pictured, stock photo)

A recent report found Australians are spending $3billion on substituted, mislabelled and fraudulent food products (pictured, stock photo)

A recent report found Australians are spending $3billion on substituted, mislabelled and fraudulent food products (pictured, stock photo)

Co-author of the report and Deakin University Professor Rebecca Lester told The Age the full scope of the problem in Australia is still ‘largely unknown’.  

‘It’s difficult to tell how big a problem it is within Australia because there are just not a lot of studies that actually test,’ she said. 

‘We don’t have common commercial labs that are doing this on a regular basis, so most examples are from overseas, or from specific research projects.’

Professor Lester warned ‘potentially anything’ could be faked from dairy products, meat, vegetables, herbs, and even honey and oil. 

The study looked at six fraudulent practices involving adulteration, concealment, counterfeiting, dilution, mislabelling, and substitution of products. 

Marketing products as ‘organic’ and ‘halal’ when they are not is considered` concealment while dilution is a common practice with milk, juices, and wine.

Wine (pictured, stock photo) was also found to be subject to adulteration - where an undeclared ingredient is included to reduce production costs

Wine (pictured, stock photo) was also found to be subject to adulteration - where an undeclared ingredient is included to reduce production costs

Wine (pictured, stock photo) was also found to be subject to adulteration – where an undeclared ingredient is included to reduce production costs 

Beef, seafood and wine industries were found to be high risk to substitution with the use of fillers to increase volume and mislabelling to forge provenance and quality.

Food fraud involving seafood mostly involved species substitution along with mislabelling on whether produce was farmed, wild caught, frozen, or fresh. 

Wine was also found to be subject to adulteration, where an undeclared ingredient is included to reduce production costs, or incorrect grape varieties listed.

The report found products were most vulnerable to fraud where there was a large difference in value depending on where the product was from or if it was organic.   

Verifying labelling claims also prove more difficult when meat is sold in cuts rather than a whole recognisable item. 

The report found products are most vulnerable to fraud where there is a large difference in value depending on where the product is from or if it is organic

The report found products are most vulnerable to fraud where there is a large difference in value depending on where the product is from or if it is organic

The report found products are most vulnerable to fraud where there is a large difference in value depending on where the product is from or if it is organic

The findings also suggest fraudsters may be more inclined to cut corners when laws and control systems are ineffective in deterring fraudulent practices.  

Professor Lester said some industries and businesses are choosing to bury their heads in the sand as product fraud remains largely unregulated in Australia.

She added increased consumer awareness was important in getting businesses to take action and advised shoppers to buy local to help shorten the supply chain.   

‘A banana is a banana… but as soon as it’s packaged and mixed with other things, there are opportunities for fraud,’ she said. 

Source: DailyMail AU

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