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Percent of foods sampled by CFIA found to be unadulterated

Fighting Food Fraud with a United Front

As an emerging global issue, food fraud is a priority of Canada’s Food Policy, and, as such, is the subject of an annual food fraud report from CFIA. Food fraud can take the form of:

  • Substituting a product with something of a different character or quality.
  • Adulterating or diluting a product by mixing in other ingredients or elements and not declaring them on the label.
  • Mislabelling a product as something it’s not.
  • Making false claims or misleading statements to make the product appear to be something that it isn’t.

While the recent FY 2021-2022 annual Food Fraud Report of CFIA surveillance showed relatively low levels of food fraud among some higher risk commodities, the levels, particularly those of expensive oils are concerning. The surveillance results are included in the agency’s report published earlier this month, which details CFIA activities to prevent, detect, and deter food fraud, including the targeted surveillance of food fraud in higher-risk commodities, for which CFIA took control and/or enforcement actions were warranted. The report includes an overview of what was sampled, the resulting fraud detected, and enforcement action taken.

Surveillance included inspecting, sampling, and testing for authenticity and misrepresentation of fish, honey, meat, olive oil, other expensive oils, and spices. While the majority of samples in each product type were found to be satisfactory, there was still a significant amount of fraudulent product detected in the 844 targeted samples.

While less than one percent of the meat sampled was found to be inauthentic, other foods did not fare quite so well, with Other Expensive Oils faring the worst with 36% of the samples misrepresented, as shown below:

35.7%Other Expensive OilsDilution with lower value oil(s)
22.5%HoneyAdulteration with foreign sugar(s)
13.1%Olive OilAuthenticity, adulteration or dilution with lower value oil(s)
7.3%FishSpecies substitution
5.7%SpicesAdulteration and/or substitution with bulking agents or other unpermitted ingredients
0.9%MeatSpecies substitution

In most cases, the samples found to be adulterated were of foreign origin, but at least one adulterated sample of each food type, except olive oil, originated in Canada. However, as was clarified in the report, “Practices leading to non-compliance may have occurred at various points of the supply chain (for example, during processing, packaging/re-packaging) and therefore an unsatisfactory result may not always be indicative of an issue in the place of origin.”

When a sample was found to be non-compliant, inspectors followed up to determine where the issue originated in the supply chain and “appropriate action” was taken. Action included recalls, charges, and convictions including:

  • Charges of food misrepresentation were issued for American (US) lobster sold in a manner that is false, misleading, or deceptive regarding its origin and beef that was treated with hormones and antibiotics sold as “certified organic”
  • Presteve Foods Limited was convicted of two counts of contravening section 6(1) of the Safe Food for Canadians Act and fined $400,000 for selling frozen fish as “fresh.”
  • While the intent of the surveillance was to detect food fraud, undeclared allergens were also detected in some cases, with at least one case resulting in a recall.

Selling food in a manner that is false or misleading is not only an issue because of its illegality, but also because buyers are not receiving what they’ve paid for and expect, and because it can pose health risks for consumers. Additionally, food fraud has been estimated to affect about 10% of all commercially sold foods and cost the global food industry between $10 and $15 billion per year.

While CFIA has taken an active role in combatting food fraud, industry has a part to play as well by:

  • verifying the authenticity of ingredients used in the food manufacturing process
  • obtaining food products from trusted suppliers, and keeping records that track the supply chain
  • training and supervising employees
  • alerting the CFIA in cases of suspected food fraud
  • addressing concerns from consumers about misrepresented food

Providing a united front in combatting food fraud is essential in reducing, if not completely eliminating, inauthentic foods and requires the active participation of the entire food supply chain and its consumers.

Percent of foods sampled by CFIA found to be unadulterated (CFIA Report)


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