Panel discussion: Food fraud is a crime

28 October 2021 – In an online discussion organised by the EU Delegation to Serbia and the European Policy Centre (CEP) on the topic of food safety in Serbia and methods of counterfeiting in the food industry, the panellists concluded that food fraud is a common problem in both the EU and in Serbia, that that represent a criminal offence, and that it is necessary to be more active in the fight against that and to undertake protection and safety measures in quality control that would reduce fraud in this sector to a minimum. You can watch the discussion here.

The panellists were: Eva Siegener, Food Fraud Researcher at the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety of the European Commission (DG SANTE); Zoran Ivanović, Head of the Department of Veterinary Inspection, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy, Mladen Alfirović, Legal Advisor, National Consumer Organisation of Serbia (NOPS), Rodoljub Živadinović, President of the Association of Union of Beekeping Organisations of Serbia (SPOS), and Dragan Roganović, President of the Board of Directors, Network for Rural Development of Serbia. The panel was moderated by Dušan Protić, Programme Manager for Internal Market and Competitiveness in CEP.

During the OPSON X action, the EU conducted 68,000 checks in shops, markets, airports, seaports and industrial households. As a result, fake food products worth about 50 million euros were confiscated in the period from December 2020 to July 2021 – said Siegener.

“Food frauds are criminal offence. In order to suppress this type of abuse in Serbia it’s necessary to cooperate with EU countries, by raising quality control of goods during import and export to a higher level“, she said.

Ivanović also emphasised that, in addition to the inspection authorities, the court and the police should also participate in fraud perpetrated in the food industry. Speaking about his profession (veterinary medicine), he said there is the most fraud in grilled meat area, for example, there is a lower percentage of beef than indicated, traces of meat that was not stated in the declaration, and so on. Roganović continued by talking about the most common frauds, and he mentioned the example of some domestic products typical for some regions in Serbia (kajmak).

“Manufacturers often use the name of a popular region knowing that it will increase their profits, but of course, this is a deception of the customer and mustn’t be done,” Roganović said. Živadinović said that frauds regarding honey and honey products are also widespread and are the biggest problems are false declarations. He also pointed out that fines do not mean anything to large producers because they can easily pay them and then continue with the same practice and that we should see how to stop it.

Alfirović said that the existing legislative framework in Serbia should be changed so that consumers would better protected and so that manufacturers who try to deceive customers would be more adequately punished. In addition, Alfirović mentioned that introducing collective lawsuit is necessary in the legal system of the Republic of Serbia.

The discussion is part of a series of debates that the EU Delegation organises with the CEP, aiming to bring topics related to the EU accession process closer to citizens and allow them to discuss them themselves. The events are open to the media and the interested public.