Horsemeat scandal: Defra denies delaying report to avoid embarrassing ministers

'The report will be published shortly' asserts spokeswoman

Accusations that the official report into the horsemeat scandal has been delayed to protect ministers from political embarrassment have been strenuously denied.

Publication of the report by Professor Chris Elliott, of Queen’s University Belfast and a professor of food safety, was to take place during the summer but is now expected in the autumn.

There were suggestions on Friday night that ministers were afraid the conclusions of the report would leave the public “frightened” that crooks could  easily circumvent food safety rules.

However, a spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), dismissed the claim as “completely inaccurate”.

She said the reason for the delay was that a cabinet reshuffle meant there was too little time for the new Secretary of State for the Environment and her team to prepare fully shortly before the Parliamentary summer recess.

“The report will be published shortly,” said the spokeswoman. “It’s only right the new Ministerial team have the time to read the report and can consider it fully before it is published.

“[The Secretary of State] didn’t block it. It hasn’t been shelved. She just needs time to work on it. It’s only reasonable – it’s one of the big things that Defra are working on.”

Professor Elliot was commissioned by the government in June 2013 to compile the report on the integrity of the food supply chain following the scandal in which horsemeat was found to have replaced beef  in burgers, lasagnes and other products.

His conclusions are believed to echo his initial findings last December when he said the food sector had become a soft touch for criminals. He accused the Food Standards Agency’s response of being too weak and said a new police force was needed to crack down on food crime.

With spending cuts believe to be highlighted in Professor Elliott’s report as hampering the food inspection and enforcement regime the conclusions are likely to be an embarrassment to the government.

Shadow Environment Secretary Maria Eagle accused the government of failing consumers by delaying publication:  “The government's continued delay in publishing the Elliott review is bad for consumers and bad for the industry."

"Consumers rightly deserve to know what they are eating, where it has been produced and that there is a robust response mechanism when serious incidents occur so that the regulator and the industry can deal with it effectively.

"The Government must show leadership to restore confidence in food industry and act on this review urgently before we face another food scandal.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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: Digital Marketing Executive

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HRIS Project Manager - e-Learning - Surrey - up to £450 per day

£450 per day: Ashdown Group: HR Systems Project Manager - Surrey - up to £450 ...

Ashdown Group: Senior Network Engineer - London - £70,000

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An excellent opportunity ...

Ashdown Group: Senior Systems Administrator - London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Systems Administra...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness