The food supply chain is vulnerable to criminal abuse, according to an interim report of the Elliott Review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks.
“I believe criminal networks have begun to see the potential for huge profits and low risks in this area,” said professor Chris Elliot in his report, commissioned by DEFRA.
“The food industry and thus consumers are currently vulnerable. We need a culture within businesses involved in supplying food that focuses on depriving those who seek to deceive consumers. A food supply system which is much more difficult for criminals to operate in is urgently required.”
The report specifically recommends that minor dishonesties are discouraged and the response to major dishonesties should be punitive, with significant penalties for significant food crimes.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “The UK food industry already has robust procedures to ensure they deliver high quality food to consumers and food businesses have a legal duty to uphold the integrity of food they sell.
“We will continue to work closely with the food industry, enforcement agencies and across local and central Government to improve intelligence on food fraud and our response to it.”
Among the government’s measures to prevent and identify food crime are more unannounced meat factory inspections, work to establish an EU wide food fraud unit, and the Food Standards Agency is developing a new Intelligence Hub to improve its capability to identify, and prevent, threats to food safety and integrity that are identified by expert analysis based on the approach to intelligence used by police.
Elliot’s final report is due to be submitted by spring 2014.
* Recent reports include nine cheese and meat heists in one year in the USA, $18 million of maple syrup stolen in Quebec, and the theft of five tonnes of Nutella in Germany. One robbery of fresh produce and meat in Florida estimated to be worth $300,000 was put down to volatility of food’s value, since the price of Florida tomatoes had spiked due to frost damaging crops.