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Verhaelen, K.; Bauer, A.; Günther, F.; Müller, B.; Nist, M.; Celik, B. Uelker; Weidner, C.; Kuechenhoff, H.; Wallner, P. (2018): Anticipation of food safety and fraud issues: ISAR - A new screening tool to monitor food prices and commodity flows. In: Food Control, Vol. 94: pp. 93-101
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Abstract

Despite major efforts, food safety and food fraud issues continue to appear, showing the need for an improved risk anticipation to enhance consumer protection. To this end, we need a holistic view on the food production beyond the classical farm to fork principle and consider developments in- and outside the food chain. Commodity flows and prices are considered as relevant drivers for the emergence of food safety and fraud issues. To conveniently obtain information on these drivers and to monitor their changes, we developed a tool to analyze the volume, origin and price of foods imported to Germany, based on data of the German Foreign Trade Statistic. The ISAR-Tool (Import Screening for the Anticipation of Food Risks) facilitates a descriptive analysis of the import data of about 2400 different food items imported from 220 countries and an automated analysis of the data for a systematic detection of unexpected changes in import volumes and prices. For the automated approach, time series analyses using SARIMA and ETS models are applied and data points outside the model based 99% prediction intervals are considered as potentially relevant changes. Monthly, more than 2000 of such changes are detected, leaving us with the challenging task of their evaluation for food safety and food fraud. To deal with the vast amount of results, of which the great majority cannot be linked to food safety or fraud issues, we implemented prioritization routines, and the 200 most critical results are considered for further expert evaluation. Despite remaining challenges in the performed evaluation process of the automated analysis, the described approach facilitates already at this stage an improved identification of food safety and food fraud hazards and the implementation of more targeted food safety controls, as shown in this paper. Our most prominent example of an identified food fraud and food safety risk was the detection of massive adulterations of hazelnut products with almonds and cashews, which were associated to the observed all-time high in hazelnut prices. Based on our findings, we conclude that the ISAR-Tool and the described analyses of commodity flows and prices can be important elements in the anticipation of risks and enable an enhanced consumer protection.