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UK: Food crime unit to be set up in wake of horse meat debacle

By Khalid Ahmed

UK: Food crime unit to be set up in wake of horse meat debacle

London: A dedicated food crime unit is to be set up in the wake of the horse meat debacle. Last December the interim report of the independent review of Britain’s food system in light of the recent horse meat fraud was released, which asked for the establishment of a separate food crime unite.

In order to improve the safety of UK food supply networks, the results of Professor Chris Elliott’s independent and much anticipated interim report into the horse meat scandal includes the proposal that a specialist food crime unit should be set up in the UK.

Professor Elliott, director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast and a leading food safety expert, was commissioned by Defra along with the Department of Health back in May. He has published over 240 peer review articles, many of them relating to the detection and control of agriculture, food and environmental-related complaints.

The review’s fantastic findings propose that the food industry ought not relax attempts to provide safe and contamination-free foods,  “but must also consider the prevention of food crime a primary objective.”  He also called on the food industry and the Authorities in the Government to establish ‘intelligence hubs’ to gather, and analyse disseminate specifics of foods crime. The final report to be published in spring 2014.

Professor Elliot mentions int the report: “UK consumers have access to perhaps the safest food in the world and all those involved in supplying food and for developing and enforcing legislation should be commended for what has been achieved. However, our focus now urgently needs to turn to tackling food crime.”

Addressing the outcomes of the report the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said: “The interim report is a valuable analysis of the challenge of food crime both to consumers and to what the report recognises as “the vast majority [in the food industry] who are committed to complying with the law.”

Chris Rossides

BMPA director, Stephen Rossides: “We need to consider the report carefully in order to identify how to respond to and implement its recommendations.”

BMPA director, Stephen Rossides, included: “We need to consider the report carefully in order to identify how to respond to and implement its recommendations. In doing so, we will need to work closely with our member companies, with other industry bodies and organisations and with Government in order to develop a coordinated and effective approach.

“In the light of the horse meat episode, many companies are reviewing their supply chains and carrying out regular testing of products in order to strengthen the integrity of their operations, in addition to the considerable level of audits that are conducted under a range of assurance schemes.

“In the light of the horse meat episode, many companies are reviewing their supply chains and carrying out regular testing of products in order to strengthen the integrity of their operations, in addition to the considerable level of audits that are conducted under a range of assurance schemes.

“We note and welcome the report’s statement that, “UK consumers have access to perhaps the safest food in the world.” But we also recognise that food crime, even when it does not pose a food safety risk, undermines public trust and confidence in the food industry. It is paramount that we restore and maintain that trust and confidence.”

Environment Assistant Owen Paterson said: “I am delighted that Professor Elliott’s interim overview acknowledges that there are excellent systems in place to ensure British customers have access to some of the most safe food in the world. We wish to ensure that it stays like that.

“It is appalling that anyone was able to defraud the public by passing off horse meat as beef. That is why i commissioned an urgent review into the integrity of our food network.”

Professor Elliott’s review team also met with religious and faith based groups to discuss issues relating to the discovery of pork traces in halal certified products and prison meals. Disappointingly the interim report did not mention anything about halal. The full text of the interim report can be found here: Interim report of the Elliott Review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks

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