Regulators in Scotland have launched a new hotline to help them tackle food fraud.
Food Standards Scotland encouraged both consumers and industry to use the new scheme, which will in turn enable the Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU) to gather vital intelligence on criminal activity in food supply chains.
FSS chief executive Geoff Ogle said all calls, as well as information supplied via a new online service, will be totally anonymous. The service is being run with the independent charity, Crimestoppers.
“We’re at the stage now where we can be much more directed by the intelligence we receive,” said Ogle. “The difficulty will be getting the intelligence.”
The SFCIU was launched in October 2015 in response to the 2013 horsemeat incident.
The Food Standards Agency in England has also established a crime unit. In June it launched its own reporting facility, called Food Crime Confidential.
Food fraud is estimated to cost the UK food and drink industry £1.17bn a year.
Ogle said many of the larger retailers have made improvements to shorten and simplify their supply chains. “In the medium-sized firms there are more potential risks,” he noted.
Professor Chris Elliott, who led the government’s inquiry into the horsemeat scandal, has aired similar concerns.
Scotland’s free hotline number – 0800 028 7926 – will be operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There will also be an option to report concerns via a non-traceable online form.