Increasing our knowledge of food crime

Last updated:
8 September 2017
A fork with the scales of justice balancing on it
Understanding the criminal threat to the UK's £200 billion food and drink industry requires continuous monitoring of trends. The National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) has identified seven types of food crime, to help them detect and address fraud within food supply chains.

Although the vast majority of food sold and consumed in the UK is both authentic and safe to eat, fraud can and does take place in the food supply chain.

The NFCU, in partnership with the Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit, has worked to establish a baseline understanding of the UK food crime threat.

Head of Food Crime at the FSA, Andy Morling, said: 'If we can understand how food crime manifests itself, we can apply this knowledge across a range of food sectors to prioritise risks. Focussing on the ways in which food crime is perpetrated, rather than thinking about it on a ‘commodity by commodity’ basis, will help us to identify previously undiscovered fraudulent behaviour and  highlight vulnerabilities before they are exploited by fraudsters.' 

The seven types of food crime

  • Theft
    Dishonestly appropriating food, drink or feed products in order to profit from their use or sale.
  • Unlawful processing
    Slaughtering or preparing meat and related products in unapproved premises or using unauthorised techniques.
  • Waste diversion
    Illicitly diverting food, drink or feed meant for disposal, back into the supply chain.
  • Adulteration
    Reducing the quality of food by including a foreign substance, in order to lower costs or fake a higher quality.
  • Substitution
    Replacing a food or ingredient with another substance that is similar but inferior.
  • Misrepresentation
    Marketing or labelling a product to wrongly portray its quality, safety, origin or freshness.
  • Document fraud
    Falsely or fraudulently using genuine documents to sell, market or otherwise vouch for a fraudulent or substandard product. 

Collaborative working

The NFCU works with partners to protect consumers from serious criminal activity that impacts on the safety or authenticity of the food and drink they consume.  We would like to receive any information – such as suspected unfair activity by a competitor or fraudulent conduct by your employer – relating to suspected dishonesty involving food, drink or animal feed.

Please get in touch with Food Crime Confidential on 0207 276 8787 or email

All information you provide will be handled in the strictest confidence.

Download and display our Food Crime Confidential posters

We have created five posters promoting our Food Crime Confidential reporting facility. These are free for you to download, print and display in your place of work or elsewhere. Please share this widely to help us tackle the threat of food crime.