12 January - 20 June 2016

Food fraud government report

18 Dec 13

In June 2013 Professor Chris Elliot of Queen’s University Belfast’s Institute for Global Food Security was asked to conduct a review by the Secretaries of State for Health and Defra into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks.  The interim report has now been published with the full review due for publication in April 2014.   The review was triggered by the horse meat crisis but also by the potential of food fraud, which can impact consumer confidence, and the reputation and finances of food businesses.   Elliott acknowledged that UK consumers have access to perhaps the safest food in the world and commended what has been achieved by all those involved in supplying food and developing/enforcing legislation.   His initial findings state that the industry urgently needs to focus on food fraud, which is a global problem, as there is very limited knowledge of the extent of this in complex supply chains.  Elliott makes a number of recommendations which will provide a framework to allow the development of a national food crime prevention strategy. For each element of this approach he documents clear roles and responsibilities for Government and industry.  The report states that consumers need to be put first, as consumer confidence is important.  Contamination and adulteration of food along with making false claims must be difficult to commit.  Zero tolerance is a key element, with casual dishonesty being discouraged within the industry.  The report indicates there is a role for both regulators and industry to have their own intelligence services although more action is needed to ensure they derive the maximum benefit from one another.  Under laboratory services it notes that all food authenticity testing should follow standardised procedures, and a public sector laboratory system should be created that is considered to be a national asset.   Elliott provides information on key changes to audits, so that they are more effective and more focused on preventing food crime.  He indicates that the FSA need to be more robust and have a greater connectivity to ministers, noting that the FSA needs to run the Food Authenticity Programme and Defra labelling policies.    There needs to be a Food Crime unit hosted by the FSA, which can provide leadership and coordinate investigations. The report discusses under crisis management that in the event of food crisis there needs to be clarity of role and responsibility.  It makes recommendation on how these can be achieved.

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