When it comes to food safety, the topics of Food Fraud and Food Defense are always at the forefront because of how important they are in the sector. After the publication of ISO 22000:2018, these matters are being discussed more emphatically, since there is a now a need to include them in analyzing the context of the organization, treating them as relevant external and internal matters. Moreover, the additional requirements of Version 5 of the FSSC 22000 scheme clearly detail the need for a documented procedure and constant updating of both requirements. So there is no question that they are essential, especially to certified companies.

Yet do you know the difference between Food Fraud and Food Defense?

Understanding Food Fraud

Fraud means fraudulent and intentional replacement, dilution or addition of a product or raw material, or adulteration of the product or material, aimed at financial gain, increasing the product’s apparent value or reducing its production cost. One example of this illegal activity which occurs in the food sector is fraud in milk, which is done in a variety of ways:

  • Adding water to increase volume;
  • Adding restorative ingredients, like formaldehyde or melamine, to hide the addition of water and act as a preservative;
  • Addition of preservatives, such as hydrogen peroxide, to destroy microorganisms or prevent them from multiplying, making milk more durable;
  • Addition of neutralizing agents, such as sodium hydroxide, to hide the acidity of microbial fermentation.

This type of economically-motivated transgression is the result of a combination of opportunities, motivation and inappropriate control measures. That is why in order to identify and assess potential weaknesses in the process, a vulnerability assessment needs to be carried out that encompasses the entire chain, from monitoring of suppliers to analyses of their own product, guaranteeing its purity and implementing measures to mitigate significant threats. This threat assessment for food is called a Food Fraud program.

Understanding Food Defense

Food defense is a program of protective measures to mitigate situations of intentional or malicious contamination of foods. And this is the main differences between these topics; although they are related to intentional contaminations, the Food Fraud program prevents contamination aimed at economic gain, while the Food Defense program prevents any sabotage.

The Publicly Available Specification (PAS) describes Food Defense as: “procedures adopted to assure the security of food and drink and their supply chains from malicious and ideologically motivated attack leading to contamination or supply disruption.” The two biggest examples of food adulterated due to a lack of a Food Defense program are: unmotivated or resentful employees and competitors.

Likewise, in Food Fraud, in order to avoid this type of contamination, a risk analysis is needed so that the company is capable of identifying its weaknesses and establishing mitigating measures to protect food.


Whether by committing the crime of fraud or through sabotage, it is extremely important that companies adopt preventive measures that guarantee a safe food supply to customers and consumers, as well as the brand’s integrity and continuity.

The main tool applied to implement programs is risk evaluation. This is used to classify potential threats and vulnerabilities, using probability and impact tables and then establishing preventive and control measures.

If you are looking for a tool to help in risk management, from initial identification to assessment and analysis and up through mitigation and monitoring, managing incidents and guaranteeing execution of actions and appropriate communication, be sure to check out SoftExpert Solutions for Risk Management and Action Plan!

See also the SoftExpert Suite for the Food and Beverage Industry

Camilla Christino


Camilla Christino

Business Analyst at SoftExpert, completed a Bachelor's in Food Engineering at Instituto Mauá de Tecnologia. She has solid experience in the quality area in the food industries with a focus on monitoring and adapting internal and external auditing processes, documentation of the quality management system (ISO 9001, FSSC 22000, ISO / IEC 17025), Quality Control, Regulatory Affairs, GMP, HACCP and Food Chemical Codex (FCC). She is also certified as a leading auditor in the ISO 9001: 2015.

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