THE DEPARTMENT for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and Food Standards Agency has issued a new report on food security and the introduction of a Food Crime Unit.
The special report was commissioned by the government to address the current problems in Britain’s food supply network in response to last year’s horsemeat scandal.
Professor Chris Elliot, from Queen’s University Belfast who undertook the review, examined ways to prevent food fraud incidents from happening in the future. It also investigated how to improve the culture of our food supply chain to support industry taking effective responsibility for the traceability of their products and how to ensure consumers have an increased understanding of where their food comes from.
Elliot highlighted several failings in the government's past response to examples of food fraud and expressed concern that there is currently no contingency plan in place to deal with the next "inevitable" scandal.
He made a number of recommendations to ensure that consumers can feel safer about the food they buy which include:
- Better intelligence gathering and sharing of information in order to make it more difficult for criminals to operate
- Unannounced audit checks by the food industry to protect businesses and their customers
- A new whistleblowing system which would help to report any incidents of food crime
- Improved laboratory testing capacity, with a standardised approach for the testing of a food's authenticity
- The encouragement of a culture within the food industry that questions the source of its supply chain
- A new Food Crime Unit to be set up with full police powers and expertise
Government ministers have accepted all the recommendations put forward by Elliot and earlier today Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: “We’re taking action to make sure that families can have absolute confidence in the food that they buy. When a shopper picks something up from a supermarket shelf it should be exactly what it says on the label, and we’ll crack down on food fraudsters trying to con British consumers.”
“As well as keeping up confidence here, we need to protect the great reputation of our food abroad. We’ve been opening up even more export markets, which will grow our economy, provide jobs, and support the government’s long-term economic plan.”
In response to the new report, Which? Executive Director, Richard Lloyd, commented: "It is only right the Government has accepted the Elliott Review findings and recognised that consumers must be put first if we are to restore trust in the food industry following the horsemeat scandal.”
“It's in the interests of responsible food businesses, as well as consumers, to make sure there are effective controls in place and a zero tolerance approach to food crime. We now want the Government to quickly implement all of the recommendations so consumers can be confident in the food they buy."
You can read the full report here