A MULTI-MILLION Euro European project to fight food fraud is being spearheaded by scientists in York.

The five-year FoodIntegrity project, supported by 12 million euros of EU funding, has been launched by the UK’s Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), based at Sand Hutton.

The project will bring together major stakeholders and scientific expertise from across the world to protect consumers and industry from food fraud.

Food fraud is committed when food is deliberately placed on the market, for financial gain, with the intention of deceiving the consumer.

Although there are many kinds of food fraud the two main types are the sale of food which is unfit and potentially harmful and the deliberate misdescription of food.

Food fraud may also involve the sale of meat from animals that have been stolen or illegally slaughtered, as well as wild game animals like deer that may have been poached.

Speaking about the FoodIntegrity project, Defra Minister for Food George Eustice said: “The UK has some of the highest standards of food safety in the world and is home to some of the best minds in science.

“I’m immensely proud that we have been chosen to drive world-leading, cutting-edge research that will improve our ability to prevent food fraud.”

Paul Brereton, FoodIntegrity project co-ordinator and head of Agri-food Research at Fera’s Sand Hutton site, said: “As the perpetrators of food fraud use increasingly sophisticated methods to avoid detection so science must develop to detect and prevent this crime.

“The project will provide a focal point for the sharing and exploitation of European research aimed at protecting the integrity of food production in Europe.”

FoodIntegrity brings together 38 international partners from industry, academia and government institutes.

The project will work on achieving several key aims, including establishing a self-sustaining early warning system to identify emerging risks of food fraud, investing three million euros to close gaps in existing research on food fraud, making testing methods for food fraud consistent to improve food law enforcement across Europe, and establishing a self-sustaining worldwide network of industry, regulator and consumer representatives to ensure project legacy.

The project will also involve a consumer study in China to assess Chinese consumer attitudes in the face of substantial counterfeiting of European food.