Food Crime Unit to be set up in wake of horsemeat scandal
NewsThursday 04 September 2014
In the wake of last year’s horsemeat scandal, Great Britain is on the verge of getting a Food Crime Unit which will tackle the trade of fraudulent foods.
The horsemeat scandal saw contaminated beef products ending up on the shelves of supermarkets across Europe.
Chris Elliott, a food security expert, commissioned the report that recommended the Food Crime Unit and the professor also made a number of other suggestions to ensure consumer confidence when buying food.
He suggested that better intelligence gathering and the sharing of information could make it difficult for criminals to operate. Other suggestions made by the Queen’s University Belfast professor included unannounced audit checks by the food industry; the development of a better whistleblowing system to report food crime; improved lab testing and an attempt to change the culture within the industry in order to encourage people to question where their food is sourced from.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Elliott said: "I believe the creation of the national food crime prevention framework will ensure measures are put in place to further help protect consumers from any food fraud incidents in the future."
Government ministers then came out and said that all of his ideas would be accepted.
Elizabeth Truss, the Environment Secretary spoke to BBC news saying: "We have started implementing some of the recommendations of his report, in terms of information sharing, food companies being more transparent with each other, and consumers looking for shorter supply chains. For example, there has been a 10% rise in the sale of British Beef in supermarkets."
Food crime is becoming a major problem in the UK so it is important that measures are taken to tackle it.
In fact, some international gangs are reported to be diversifying their operations to move between drug trafficking, armed robbery and the transfer of fraudulent foods.
Criminals have realised that there is plenty of money to be made in the transporting of illegal foods whilst the sentences tend to remain much lighter than drug trafficking.
The current system being used in the UK to ensure the safety of the food change is complicated.
Different departments deal with different elements with the Food Standards Agency, Defra, the Department for Health and Trading Standards officers dealing with food labelling, and food hygiene, quality and safety issues are all dealt with by Environmental Health Officers.
The consumer organisation Which? recently tested lamb takeaways in Britain. Out of the sample of 60 tested, they discovered that 24 of them contained other meats such as beef or chicken and in five samples there was meat that could not be identified at all.
The shocking results have led to the Food Standards Agency to order 300 samples from restaurants up and down the country for testing.
"The Food Standards Agency has been given an additional 2 million pounds for sample testing.” continued Elizabeth Truss.
“Since the horsemeat issue we have seen 55 thousand tests being carried out on horsemeat products, and no horsemeat has been found in those. But we can't be complacent, and that's why we are setting up the Food Crime Unit.”