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Identify Food Fraud With VACCP Plan Templates

Proactively identify food fraud and streamline VACCP compliance in your company with templates. Discover the ten steps involved in conducting a food vulnerability assessment, and continue reading to find out how you can distinguish mislabeled, counterfeited, or adulterated food products from the real deal.

What Is a VACCP Plan?

The Vulnerability Assessment Critical Control Points (VACCP) is used for the identification of food counterfeits and the control and quality assurance of products for consumption. The structure corresponds to the classic HACCP analysis and evaluation concept, but with a focus on the safety of the facility.

Food fraud is defined as the deliberate replacement, addition, manipulation, or misrepresentation of foods, food ingredients, or food packaging. By conducting a VACCP audit, food safety can always be guaranteed with thorough inspection and documentation.

These topics are briefly discussed in this article:

1. 3 typical forms of food fraud

2. The difference between HACCP, TACCP, VACCP

2. How to conduct VACCP

2. Identifying food fraud

3. A digital tool for implementing VACCP

Green vegetables and other produce in bowls

What Are the 3 Typical Forms for Food Fraud?

Fruad in the food industry is more prevalent than you might want to believe. As it is, there are three main types of food fraud: 1) mislabeling, 2) counterfeiting, and 3) dilution. Below, you’ll find the explanation as well as examples that define each deceitful food practice.

1. Misleading Labels – According to, the most commonly mislabeled foods are as follows: olive oil, honey, coffee, alcohol, fish, orange juice, milk, and saffron.

A prominent example of mislabeled foods is the horsemeat scandal of 2013 when the Foods Standards Agency Ireland (FSAI) randomly tested various frozen food items. This led to mass testing of “beef” products across the UK and Europe with discouraging results. In some cases, the beef product contained 100% horse.

Another example of this — although perhaps not as shocking as eating horsemeat — is organic labeled foods containing traces of “non-organic” ingredients that were sold on the market.

2. Counterfeiting – The exchange of ingredients and products with similar packaging, or the mixing of inferior ingredients to increase the volume of products, e.g. counterfeit spices (saffron, oregano, pepper) mixed with different materials.

3. Dilution or Adulteration – The addition of ingredients such as sugars or sweeteners to honey or maple syrup to create a similar taste, adding volume, or, in the case of infant formula, where melamine is added to achieve the desired “protein” number.

What Is the Difference Between HACCP, TACCP, VACCP?

There are some overlaps between some of the control points used in VACCP, HACCP, and TACCP, but the purpose behind them is unique to each of the plans:

HACCP – stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point and aims to identify and reduce hazards during food production to ensure that the product can be consumed safely. This is a classic hazard analysis with subsequent risk-based control points.

TACCP – stands for Threat Assessment Critical Control Point and aims to protect food products from deliberate contamination with the intention of causing harm. In this process, a vulnerability analysis is used to identify critical control points.

VACCP – tries to identify and control weak points in the food supply chain that may be susceptible to food fraud and tampering. This method is also considered a vulnerability analysis.

The TACCP and VACCP approaches to food safety are designed to meet FSMA requirements for preventing intentional product adulteration.

How Is a VACCP Conducted?

Fortunately, there are no complicated legal regulations that you need to follow while conducting a VACCP risk assessment. However, there are still two main components that will need to be addressed: 1) identifying the risk areas and 2) coming up with a plan to mitigate the risks. How you go about doing this and in what order will be up to you. Nonetheless, here’s a ten-step, intuitive plan to help you plan your approach.

  1. Select a Product
  2. Prioritize According to Risk Level
  3. Trace the Product Back to Its Source
  4. Identify Critical Control Points
  5. Anticipate the Impact of Risks on the Company
  6. Determine if Current Procedures are Enough to Mitigate the Risk
  7. Implement New Controls
  8. Assign Someone to Implement New Control Measures
  9. Review the Data
  10. Optimize the VACCP Process

Employee conducts a VACCP to test their honey for adulteration

How to Identify Food Fraud During a VACCP Risk Assessment?

Food fraud is not at all an uncommon occurrence. In fact, according to the U.S Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), saw a 60% increase in reports of fraudulent cases in 2012. What this statistic tells us is food fraud has become an accepted, even condoned practice by an industry that’s supposed to be highly regulated. Sometimes brands will outright lie about mislabeling their product or using fillers to drive down their expenses while upping their profits.

For example, have you ever looked at the back of a food container and noticed that the values represented on the nutrition label are based on serving size and not the total quantity contained within the package? You almost always have to break out the calculator every time you want to know how many calories you’re about to consume — or have already consumed. This is done on purpose.

Although not illegal, it’s meant to mislead consumers into thinking they can eat more than they should. To prevent the mishandling of food items for financial gain, businesses and consumers must first be made aware of the signs.

  1. Check the Nutrition Labels
    You can pretty much count on the fact that adulterated food is always unhealthier. For that reason, you can always check the nutrition facts to see if there’s an extra or missing ingredient that should clue you in on a counterfeited product.
  2. Perform a Food Adulteration Test
    There are, of course, some easy, tried and true methods for detecting adulterated foods that don’t require expensive testing. For example, you can test butter for the presence of starches by melting a ½ teaspoon in a clear or glass bowl and adding 2-3 drops of iodine. If the butter turns blue, it means starch was substituted for the real deal. Otherwise, you can buy pork, horse, sheep, and poultry test kits for about $180 each.
  3. Randomly Sample Food Products

    One of the only reasons that the horsemeat scandal was discovered was because the FSAI conducted a random test on frozen meat samples. Testing every product that comes through the doors is not always feasible, however, selecting a small sample size of the commonly mislabeled and counterfeited foods is. Test a batch from each shipment you receive and every time you change suppliers. This significantly reduces your risk of becoming a victim of food fraud.

When all that’s said and done, the most foolproof way to protect your business from food tampering is to educate yourself on the telltale signs and implement mitigation strategies to combat these criminal activities. The next step is to inform your employees and conduct regular VACCP checks. The use of a comprehensive checklist can help save your brand from instating a product recall that could cost your company thousands if not millions worth of dollars of potential revenue and unusable product.

How Can a a Digital Tool for Help You Implement VACCP?

With a digital checklist for a VACCP concept, you can identify food counterfeits more quickly. You can easily carry out checks via tablet or smartphone – online or offline. Use the desktop software to create your checklists for quality assurance and then evaluate the collected data. For example, you can immediately identify information about weak points and carry out targeted checks.

By using the mobile app for your quality inspections, you significantly reduce the risk of missed inspection intervals, documentation errors, and reputational damage. Take advantage of the other benefits for your daily work:

The mobile app can also be used for inspections:

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