The Impact of Prevention Defines the Value of Enforcement and Prosecution

Written by: John Spink

Primary Source: Food Fraud

Interpol Assistant Director Michael Ellis, Interpol Inspector Simone Di Meo, Underwriters Laboratories VP of Anti-Counterfeiting Brian Monks and Dr. Spink

Interpol Assistant Director Michael Ellis, Interpol Inspector Simone Di Meo, Underwriters Laboratories VP of Anti-Counterfeiting Brian Monks and Dr. Spink

Reflections on my week here at the Interpol 2013 International Law Enforcement Intellectual Crime Conference, Dublin, Ireland

Food Fraud is a focus of Interpol, and the next big food crime Operation Opson  already has 32 countries participating.  The increasing impact on public health is being felt, which is providing a significant opportunity to further understand food crime.

The Interpol Trafficking in Illicit Goods and Counterfeit Sub-Directorate is leading the enforcement of food crime law with the third Operation Opson.  This is led by Mr. Simone Di Meo and Ms. Berengere Dreno of Europol, who both presented to us earlier this year at the Global Food Safety Initiative conference (GFSI).  Their involvement with GFSI made a significant impression on the food industry and demonstrated the significance of the threat and risk – we couldn’t recall a time previous to this when Interpol presented at a food conference.

For Interpol here in Dublin, I was invited to present “Defining Food Fraud & the Role of Prevention” , where I discussed the deterrence effect of investigation and enforcement as a key part of reducing the fraud opportunity.  The focus of the food-related sessions this week was on how enforcement and prosecution can more effectively contribute to prevention.

Another aspect of prevention is training and education.  I am especially thankful for the encouragement and ideas from Mr. Michael Ellis, Mr. Di Meo, and Mr. Brian Monks.  Specifically, Mr. Monks and Underwriters Laboratories have been a big supporter of the Interpol training programs and this IP Crime Conference.  We see the opportunity to create a range of products that can serve a variety of needs, including operational training through our free Food Fraud Overview MOOC,  and  through MSU’s Certificate in Food Fraud Prevention .

The role of universities is an important part of the bigger prevention picture and Interpol has also been supportive of other outreach activities, such as with our colleagues from Moscow State University for Food Production.  The Russian Federation had a large delegation here this week, which demonstrated their commitment to Interpol and Food Fraud prevention.  Their commitment is so significant that Russian Duma member Mr. Anatoly Karpov presented a keynote address – he mentioned their interaction with our MSU Food Fraud Initiative as a demonstration of their focus on Food Fraud prevention.

These types of meetings are always an incredible opportunities to connect or reconnect with colleagues from around the world and across many functions.  For example, I was surprised and pleased to see in attendance our researcher colleague Director Momodu-Segiru Momodu of the Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).  This meeting provided an opportunity for us to discuss the new topics and conceive our next research project.

While we had a good time visiting, there were many serious discussions about how to coordinate all our wide range of activities.  The role and effectiveness of enforcement and prosecution must be judged by the impact on prevention.  A question from my presentation that resonated was “are we disrupting the chemistry of the crime?” – do the bad guys wake up the next day and decide not to attack your product?  For food crime, Interpol is leading the charge to answer this question.  Follow Interpol and look for an opportunity to participate in Operation Opson.  JWS.

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John Spink
Dr. Spink has been focused on product fraud since the Michigan State University’s Food Safety Program and the School of Packaging began research on the topic in 2006. This work expanded to the behavioral sciences and criminology and led to the establishment of the Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Initiative in 2008. In 2009 the work shifted to the School of Criminal Justice where the Initiative evolved into a Program.