It’s the anniversary of the publication of Professor Chris Elliott’s final report on the integrity and assurance of food.
Prof. Elliott writes for Which? Conversation on the progress that has been made since the horsemeat scandal:
‘On the government front, there’s now the cross-government working group on food integrity and food crime chaired by George Eustice. I’m told this is very much helping to bring together the various elements of the public service that was sadly lacking prior to horse-gate.
‘The National Food Crime Unit is now also operational and lead by a well-respected former senior police officer. Questions are already being asked about what they are up to and if they are being effective in finding and deterring criminal activity in our food system. From my perspective it’s of the utmost important that they are given time and resource to develop an operational capacity and not have to go for a quick win to show their worth.’
He also warns that we’re not out of the woods yet:
‘I finish with a strong note of caution. If you look at the articles Which? has published about food fraud happening in the UK since the scandal and realise that fraud in food supplies is perpetrated by criminal gangs globally then, it’s clear we have still a major challenge ahead.
‘Without the necessary level of vigilance, without the necessary level of resourcing, without a continued change in the culture of the UK food industry and our government’s reaffirmation that they will protect our citizens from food criminals it may happen again. And if it does, our luck may run out.’
Do you think enough has been done to tackle food fraud? Tell Prof. Chris Elliott what you think on Which? Conversation.
The recommendations in the Elliott report into food fraud have been accepted by the government today, including the establishment of a new Food Crime Unit.
Professor Chris Elliott was commissioned to examine how we could prevent food fraud incidents from happening again following the horsemeat scandal last year. He produced an interim report on his findings in February 2014 and his findings have now been accepted by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).
The Government is committing to:
- setting up a new Food Crime Unit
- ensuring there is a resilient network of food analytical laboratories to test food consistently
- and improving coordination across government to protect food integrity and tackle food crime.
Our executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:
'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.'
He added: '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.'
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.'
The government has also committed to improving labelling, including new country of origin labelling introduced from April 2015.
In response to our campaign, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has pledged to deliver additional 'priority testing' of lamb dishes from takeaway restaurants across the UK.
We agree that a systems approach is needed, along with a culture change across the food industry so that the vulnerabilities of food supply chains are better understood, checks and controls enhanced and consumers better protected from food fraud as well as food safety risks.