Horsemeat scandal report calls for national food crime unit

It called for a 'zero tolerance' approach to food fraud to prevent the same thing happening again in the future

Another horsemeat scandal is inevitable unless a dedicated food fraud unit is launched to infiltrate the highly organised criminal traders of illegal meats, according to an independent review.

Supermarkets have also been called to carry out greater checks on their supply chains to avoid future adulteration or could face arrest for handling criminal property. It was especially critical of retailers who buy meats at well-below recognised market prices.

The report by Professor Chris Elliott, ordered by the Government into last year’s horsemeat scandal, called for the Food Standards Agency to set up a national food crime unit which can work alongside similar organisations in other EU countries.

The author stressed: “No part [of the report] can be considered in isolation and cherry picking of the recommendations will not work.”

It called for a “zero tolerance” approach to food fraud through increasing intelligence gathering, unannounced audit checks by the industry, improved testing and a bigger role for public officials.

However, cuts to local authority budgets have meant councils are “unable to effectively protect consumers” and public testing services are struggling to survive.

The report also found that the original investigations into the scandal was carried out by regulators with “at least in part with insufficient experience or expertise in the investigation of serious food crime and none at all in tackling complex organised crime.”

Criticism has been levelled at the report for being published later than billed, with accusations of Government interference over whether ministers were wrong to remove responsibility from the FSA for food authenticity.

It did warn that greater clarity was needed over which department and organisation is responsible for what area.

It said the Department for Environment, Department of Health and FSA must work closer together “to ensure there is no repeat of the confusion which occurred at the beginning of the horsemeat incident.”

The Government welcomed today’s report and agreed to adopt its main recommendations, including a food crime unit within the FSA and improve coordination across different departments.

However, Labour shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle MP pointed out the long wait for changes.

She said: “David Cameron approved changes to the structures of government that weakened consumer protection, culminating in the horsemeat scandal. The confusion this caused is highlighted in today's report yet the Government have totally failed to admit they got this wrong and have still not reversed the misguided decision to fragment the Food Standards Agency. The Government must now show leadership and establish an effective food crime unit as soon as possible.“

Industry heads also welcomed the report, which produced an interim version in December, warning that the food and drink industry was vulnerable to unscrupulous suppliers.

The British Retail Consortium, which represents the vast majority of high street retailers, said its members had tightened up its testing and was better protected to avoid future scandals.

However, Annette Barker, forensic director at KPMG, warned that unless organisations tackle weak links in their supply chain, they risk exposure to fraud and a repeat of the crisis.

She warned: “The pressure to keep a steady supply of food at reasonable prices remains high which leads to suppliers looking for ways to keep costs competitive.  Some food supply chains have become increasingly complex with agreements spanning the globe.  Cost pressures and increased complexity naturally bring an increased risk of fraud.”

The warning comes as supermarkets are in a price war that has already claimed the scalp of Tesco’s former chief executive and sees more than half the country now visiting one of the discounters Aldi and Lidl in the past three months.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas