/ Food & Drink

A new Food Crime Unit to stop a horsemeat repeat

Food fraud

The Government has today accepted the recommendations of the Elliott Report in full, including the establishment of a new Food Crime Unit. Will this give you more confidence in the food you buy?

I don’t know about you, but the horsemeat scandal really hit my confidence in the food I eat. The contamination of meat products across Europe made it starkly obvious that we didn’t really know what was going into our food and that fraud could be widespread.

We’ve been calling on the Government to take urgent steps to ensure a horsemeat-type scandal can’t happen again. Or, if it does, that it can be spotted sooner and those adulterating our food are caught and held to account through the Courts.

Professor Chris Elliott was commissioned by the Government to examine how food fraud incidents could be prevented from happening again. His report has now been published, and in a big win for our Stop Food Fraud campaign supporters, the Government has agreed to his recommendations in full. Hurrah! But what’s in the report, and is it any good?

Putting your needs first

Central to the Elliott Report is a ‘consumer first’ approach, where industry, government and enforcement agencies will always put the needs of consumers above all other objectives. We strongly support this emphasis (as you would expect), and we now want to see the Government outline how it intends to ensure your needs are top priority in food crime prevention.

One concern that became apparent during the horsemeat scandal was the lack of coordination across the Government and the Food Standards Agency. It’s quite worrying that since 2010 there hasn’t been effective means of coordination on food issues. This has been recognised in the Elliot Report – ministers will now meet regularly to discuss food crime to ensure problems are identified and rapid action is taken.

New Food Crime Unit

We had no idea how long horsemeat was present in our food, and there’s also the possibility that other foods out there are subject to adulteration. That’s why we need a body to take responsibility for investigating food crime – step forward the ‘Food FBI’ (as it’s been dubbed by the Daily Mail). This new Food Crime Unit (its formal description) will be set up by the end of 2014 and will be placed in the Food Standards Agency.

This Food Crime Unit is modelled on examples seen around the world, and will introduce capabilities for law enforcement style investigations into food crime. It’ll be key to identifying and prosecuting more of the criminals that mess with our food.

We welcome the publication of the Elliott Report and the Government’s full acceptance of its findings. We now want the Government to quickly implement all of the recommendations so that you can be confident in the food you buy.

Do the measures announced by the Government increase your confidence in the food you buy? What do you think about the introduction of a Food Crime Unit?

Will a new Food Crime Unit give you more confidence in the food you buy?

Yes (60%, 1,361 Votes)

Don't know (21%, 480 Votes)

No (19%, 422 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,263

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Comments
Guest
Suzie Morley says:
5 September 2014

A Food Crime Unit is a step in the right direction, but we all know how effectve the other regulators are. Will this one be any different?

Guest
Kevin Irish says:
5 September 2014

Depends on their powers, and if they are willing to use them.
Most goverment departments seem to lack ‘bite’.

Guest
Piano says:
5 September 2014

It is mainly prepared foodstuffs in which poor quality ingredients are hidden. If we taught those acquired skills of most immediate post-war shoppers in recognising freshness and origin signs it would be difficult for the bad products to make profits for fraudsters.
The use of freezers, slow cookers, pressure cookers and the modern halogen and microwave ovens allows even the busiest of families to enjoy freshly prepared food from selected ingredients.
Audit trails of produce can make a contribution but should not be relied upon to guarantee wholesome food.
Less dependence on “them” and more self-confidence in one’s own resources.

Guest

Cuts cuts cuts. First lets get the British economy working .Rebuild our industry, And export industry. ,Stop selling our industry to foreign people . If you import more than you export you spend more than you receive then governments and counsels wont have the money to spend on crime. and will keep cutting everything .We cant pay our way in the world by building things just like house building . Industry is our economy. Our economy pays to fight crime . And a horse meat repeat.

Profile photo of alfa
Guest

I agree with “stop selling our industry to foreign people”.

Governments keep telling us how good foreign investment is but that is not the reality.

More often than not, they either buy up our companies and shut them down, putting people out of work increasing benefits and unemployment costs and increasing our foreign spending or take over our energy, water and telecoms and charge us the earth to use them.

Guest

While there are big money and mutinational companies involved in food production, I do not believe any law/police force will be able to do much. Having said that, if it helps raise awareness in the general public about the abysmal state of the food sold today, it may be a good first step on a very long road to transparency and improvement in products currently are sold as food,

Guest
James Cunnane says:
5 September 2014

Mass-produced food now gives rise to much suspicion because it has so often been shown to be fake

Guest
M Whitehead says:
5 September 2014

any such unit needs proper teeth

Guest
David says:
5 September 2014

In theory, this should work, but it all depends upon the terms of reference and the enthusiasm of the people involved.
Whoever are involved in this, need to be prepared for a lot of opposition from the very people who are cashing in on the lack of enforcement at the moment – A lot of money is involved, and I suspect there are some ‘big’ names, if not behind the fraudsters, then placing orders to them for their sub-standard products.

Guest
Kevin Irish says:
5 September 2014

I agree with David. This department would need the full backing of the police and courts. These fraudsters won’t go down without a fight.

Guest
Jennifer Naylor says:
5 September 2014

Hard to see how the new fraud squad can replace the inspectors previously employed by local authorities. I no longer eat and will never eat meat again in any form. I only hope the rest of the planet decides to go the same way, or we’ll need another planet to keep all the cows on.

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Guest

I have no view on whether or not everyone on Earth should stop eating meat, but if they did then there would be little need for any cows or pigs, certainly not for breeding on an industrial scale as is the situation today. Sheep might hang on as a source of wool [synthetic fibre is too reliant on carbons] and poutry and game might have a future for egg production. Already, horses are only kept for leisure purposes in the developed world. With a lack of manure, more chemical fertilisers would be needed to provide enough arable and vegetable crops to substitute for meat. In the UK, land currently used for grazing would have to be used for crop production; much of it is not suitable for intensive mechanical agriculture so more manual labour might be required. It’s an interesting prospect.

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Guest

The Food Crime unit needs to sample the menu first, if they suffer from indigestion or acute diarrhoea , then some action may follow, otherwise they will be similar to other regulators,

Guest

It seems all very well but to be truly consumer orientated surely the FCU must have a Charter that also includes for the registration of individual customer reports/complaints about possible food crime and requires a quick response to such and that requires feedback to customers after investigation. Without this I fear the FCU will become yet another impenetrable organisation like the Trading Standards agency.

Guest
Tony Ormonde says:
6 September 2014

Food crime unit only adds another point of contact to make a complaint, a unit will not prevent greedy bosses making a profit compromising food safety or any other product’s safety.

Guest
Brian Harvey says:
6 September 2014

I do not expect any substantial benefits from this government until they are prepared to put finance alongside their promises.

Random checking/investigation will only scrape the surface.

What is needed is sufficient funding to local authority health, safety, weights & measures investigators to enable the L.A to protect the publice and do what they were set up to do.

This conservative government has produced exactly the opposite – cut funding to such anextent that food outlets & retailers can expect an inspection without notice about once every 5-years!!!!!!

Guest
tony haywood biles says:
6 September 2014

once again money is the root of the problem!!!!

Guest
tony haywood biles says:
6 September 2014

as always money is the root of the problem!!!

Guest
Terry says:
8 September 2014

This will all depend on what enforcement they have and when it is all due to take effect!

Guest
Billy Megger says:
8 September 2014

Who got rid of the family butchers by buying from the supermarkets then. Go back to the local butcher if you have any left. We still do and all our meats come from him.

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Guest

Bit of a jazzy title for powers that existed anyway if inspectors were a bit less forgiving. Another “top priority” from the government – send the cavalry in! [sic]

Guest
Scorpio says:
9 September 2014

I well remember…”You can fool some of the People, All of the Time” ( Abraham Lincoln! ).

How many times has this been Investigated & disclosed on TV???…Even when we are given Government Assurance, that All is Well???

It seems One Scandal after Another…Because “They” are Immune to it All…Do we really Think(?)…Millionaire MP’s experience these Problems???…Insulated as “They” are by their Wealth!!! & Greed & Expenses Provisions!!! & Now looking for a Pay Rise…While the rest of US are Denied & Told to Tighten our Belts in these Times of Recession & Austerity!!!

I am Disgusted with the way that Western Capitalistic Exploiters, are Conning US out of Existence & Robbing Everyone Blind!!…While Living the Life of Riley!!!…@ OUR Expense!!!

I Do Not Trust…Any Official!!…Expert View!! or Opinion!! ( Thieves Rouges Vagabonds ALL!!! )….A Total Blight on Our Society! Despicable & Contemptuous in Extremis!!

Also Remember…The 1st Casualty of War…Is Truth!!

AND, Only Believe 10% of what you Read, AND 50%, of what you actually SEE…AND, You May then be somewhere…NEAR the TRUTH!!!

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Guest

Profit not quality is the principle used by the big monopolies in the retail food trade and when the government decide to take action the employment blackmail comes into full operation. I hope LIDL and ALDI will rectify this.
The so called bloodsuckers dictate to suppliers including size of potatoes and tomatoes, quality is not a priority, profit and greed not the health of the nation is their priority.

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Guest

NO its not kapalistiks fault, it’s ours for daring to want cheap food and forcing hard up manufactures to break the law, or so the media thread ran when horsemeat first found, oh! those darling journalist do love lecturing us.

Guest
Billy Megger says:
16 September 2014

I can agree with all the above comments. But as usual. nobody appear to accept their part in this scandal caused by buying from the supermarkets or cheap outlets. Wake up people, the answer lies in your own hands by only buying from outlets that you trust and can inform you of where the product came from. Your money is a more powerful tool than any regulation. This applies to any commerce- your money can control it.

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Guest

Easier said than done, Billy. Many people have no effective choice of meat supplier. We live near a town of 25,000 people and there are probably another 10,000 living in the surrounding vilages. There is only one butcher’s shop and, as I mentioned earlier, their meat comes off a lorry in cardboard boxes. I expect they know where it comes from all right but it certainly isn’t from Arthur Fallowfield’s farm down the lane.

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Guest

Billy – All meat has to be safe to eat, wherever we buy it from. That is the law.

Guest
Billy Megger says:
23 September 2014

John-we live in Cumbria. In our town we have two butchers. Check out Quality Butchers or Q butchers. With good transport links and a freezer, you will be able to access one. We have just travelled 100 miles to take a lamb for my son’s freezer. It was cut to our specification, bagged and labelled. We picked it up from the local butchers in a cardboard box and the lamb originated from our local farmer. It isn’t easy to find butchers or even good butchers but whose fault is that. Stop buying from the local butcher and they close down. Then the local abattoir closes down-then farmers struggles and goes under. Then a speculator buys up the land and builds houses on it.
The problem today is that most people are only interested in their profit.

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Guest

wavechange, “All meat has to be safe to eat, wherever we buy it from. That is the law. “. As we all know people will either ignore the law, sell non-compliant mesat unknowingly, or as criminals will be involved deliberately put unsafe cheap mesat into the market to make money (e.g. condemned chicken).
It is no good relying on rules and regulations. We need honest public-spirited people who see these problems within their workplace being able to report such problems in confidence to someone who will take swift action. Should be Trading Standards. Fund them properly.

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Guest

For “mesat” read “meat”! Sorry – I should read my post more carefully before pressing submit.

Guest
Billy Megger says:
23 September 2014

what ever you say wavechange.. No doubt the horse meat was safe, it just wasn’t beef

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Guest

Billy – Meat has to go through procedures and checks before it is passed as fit for human consumption. Can you be sure that horse meat passed off as beef has gone through these procedures? It seems unlikely.

I would be happy to try horse meat provided it was sold as horse meat and passed as fit to eat.

Guest
Billy Megger says:
23 September 2014

I think you have got side tracked here. My comments refered from the beginning with the fact that the people buying from supermarkets are the cause of the decline of traditional butchers. I have never mentioned anything about safety of the meats. Even though I was aware that a lot of beef was sold off at one time that came from the ECC beef storage mountains. It was never mentioned, as far as I was aware, that this ” fresh meet” had been in cold storage for many years.

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Guest

Billy – This Conversation is about the new Food Crime Unit. The safety of our food is paramount and the consumer is not in a position to know whether the food they buy is safe. One of the intentions of creating the FCU is to encourage those working in the industry to report breaches of regulations that could compromise public safety. It should also help to ensure that we buy what we pay for, not a cheaper substitute or ‘fresh’ meat that has been stored for months. As Malcolm has said, Trading Standards needs more funding to deal with criminals.

I don’t know whether meat from small butchers or giant supermarkets or is safer, but we must do our best to ensure that all food is safe, wherever we choose to buy it from.