Completed projects

Read about some of the projects our group have recently completed.

Food fraud: A supply network integrated systems analysis

This ESRC/Food Standards Agency funded research has three distinct but integrated research streams to answer the question: How does the nature, functioning and regulation of a food supply network affect the risk of food fraud by adulteration? This research question is allied to one anticipated integrative output: a predictive, transposable dynamic computational model that will outline nodes in a food supply network vulnerable to criminal acts of adulteration.

Distribution and consumption of counterfeit alcohol: Getting to grips with fake booze

inside brewery

The aim of this Alcohol Research UK funded project is to develop a greater and more detailed understanding of the distribution mechanisms associated with counterfeit alcohol. The distribution of counterfeit alcohol requires a high level of organisation and a developed network of actors to ensure market penetration. The discipline of criminology brings a particular approach to the understanding organisation of this crime and provides more detailed insights into how the networks of distribution operate.

  • Project dates: September 2016 – August 2018
  • Principal Investigator: Jon Spencer (UoM)
  • Co-Investigators: Nicholas Lord (UoM) and Elisa Bellotti (UoM)
  • Research Associate: Katie Benson (UoM)


A criminological network analysis of counterfeit alcohol distribution

This UMRI funded project integrates a cutting-edge criminological and social network analytical theoretical approach to understand the organisation of the distribution of counterfeit alcohols. We analyse the dynamics between the ‘scripts’ through which offenders must go in order to accomplish their counterfeit alcohol enterprise and how these scripts are shaped by the networks of cooperating actors at various stages of the crime commission process. The project explores the contention that these non-legitimate actions are hidden behind the actions of otherwise legitimate actors and business practices and that the concealment of illicit conduct in relation to the distribution and supply of counterfeit alcohol can be defined as an habitual and frequent practice within this market.

  • Project dates: March 2016 – November 2016
  • Principal Investigator: Jon Spencer (UoM)
  • Co-Investigators: Nicholas Lord (UoM) and Elisa Bellotti (UoM)
  • Research Associate: Katie Benson (UoM)
  • Visit the Counterfeit alcohol project website

Corporate crime in the meat supply chain

Various European countries have recently been struck with cases of food fraud in the meat supply chain. Several company managers are criminally prosecuted in the so-called ‘Horsemeat scandal’. However, recent prosecutions for fraud in the meat industry in EU countries are not limited to horsemeat. In criminology, food fraud is understudied. The global food industry suggests to ‘think like a criminal’ to prevent food fraud. As the suspects in the recent criminal cases are regular actors in the meat supply chain, this project is using the criminological concept of ‘corporate crime’ to gain a better understanding of the nature and causes of fraud in the meat supply chain and the involvement of meat processing companies. Lessons from criminological studies on corporate crime will be used to study and understand the motivations and opportunities of offenders in the recent cases of food fraud in the meat supply chain. From this analysis, options for prevention and intervention will be deducted.

  • Project dates: 2014 – 2018
  • Principal Investigator: Wim Huisman, VU University Amsterdam

SSAFE Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment Tool

Alarmed by recent food fraud scandals, the global food industry is trying to reduce their vulnerability to food fraud within food supply chains. However, current food safety management systems are not designed for fraud detection or mitigation, but new food safety guidelines require it. That is why SSAFE (representing global food industry leaders) has invited Wageningen University and VU University Amsterdam to create a food fraud vulnerability assessment tool to help companies identify their vulnerabilities to food fraud threats.
This is an industry-led solution that supports the Consumer Goods Forum’s Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) guidelines. SSAFE developed the tool with PwC, and in consultation with food industry leaders around the world to help put companies in a stronger position to fight fraud. On an aggregative level, the result of these company assessments contribute to a better understanding of the vulnerabilities of food supply chains for food fraud.

The tool is freely available for all food companies to download in Excel at SSAFE  or from PWC  and on Apple’s App Store and on Google Play.

  • Project dates: 2013-2017
  • Principal investigator: Saskia van Ruth, Wageningen University
  • Co-investigators: Pieternel Luning, Wageningen University, Wim Huisman, VU University Amsterdam

Harmful labour practices and migrant workers in UK food supply chains

The concept of harm in criminology has gained increasing attention in recent years. When considering harmful labour practices, most research focuses on extreme cases of exploitation, including modern-day slavery, human trafficking, and forced labour. The aim of this project is to examine labour harms in UK food supply chains that fall under the threshold needed in order to be classed as modern-day slavery. Migrants in the UK may be particularly vulnerable to labour harms if they are unaware of their employment rights, do not speak English, and have irregular immigration status. UK food production is associated with many supply chain businesses minimising costs, whereby suppliers outsource their labour costs to intermediaries. These legal supply chain processes can have harmful consequences on labourers in the form of insecure work, underpayment, and various forms of abuse. The research consists of a qualitative study, which includes migrant workers and food supply chain stakeholders.

  • Project dates: 2014-2017
  • Principal investigator: Jon Davies, University of Manchester