The UK needs to set up a specialist food crime unit following the horsemeat scandal, a Government-commissioned report has recommended.
Professor Chris Elliott of Queens University Belfast said the UK has high food safety standards but the scandal “clearly showed criminal activity in the global food chain”.
In the first part of his independent review into how the safety and authenticity of food can be protected, Professor Elliott said a new unit should be set up as a non-Home Office police force able to deal with “complex food crime perpetrated by highly organised and dangerous, potentially violent organised crime groups”.
He said criminal networks saw the potential for “huge profits and low risks” and his report found “a worrying lack of knowledge” about the extent of their operations. He said: “I have been persuaded by the evidence I have collected that food crime already is or has the potential to become serious organised crime.”
The report says Government and industry should make urgent efforts to “fill the knowledge gap” of the extent of any criminal activity within the UK food supply network. It called for the creation “intelligence hubs” to gather and analyse information.
There have been no successful prosecutions in the UK or Ireland to date in relation to the horsemeat scandal.