A specialist food crime unit should be set up to investigate fraud in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, an expert has said.
Professor Chris Elliott told the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that food fraud needed to become an item in company risk registers.
He said: “Any particular incidents of suspected food fraud that are happening in large companies should be reported to the board. What we don't want are chief executives saying 'I knew nothing about this'.”
Mr Elliott said food authenticity had been taken “very seriously” in the UK, with the Food Standards Agency regarded as a global leader, but that had been “eroded over a number of years, to the point that governmental testing was at an all-time low”.
He said a unit should be set up as an independent force able to deal with “complex food crime perpetrated by highly organised and dangerous, potentially violent, organised crime groups” in the wake of the horsemeat scandal which revealed that frozen burgers supplied to several supermarkets, including Tesco, contained horse DNA.
Mr Elliott added that criminal networks saw the potential for “huge profits and low risks” in food fraud and theft.