Wednesday 30th Sep 2020 - Logistics & Supply Chain

Government plans new unit to police food supply chain

The government is to set up a crime unit to police the food supply chain following last year’s horsemeat scandal.  The move follows publication of the Elliott report on food integrity and assurance of food supply networks.

Environment secretary Elizabeth Truss said the government accepted all the recommendations in the report.

As well as the Food Crime Unit, the government plans to:

* improve labelling including new country of origin labelling introduced from April 2015.

* make it easier for food procurers to make decisions about the locality, authenticity and traceability of their food.

The review examines ways to prevent food fraud incidents from happening. Chris Elliott is professor of food safety and director of the Institute for Global Food security at Queen’s University Belfast. His recommendations are:

* giving top priority to the needs of consumers in relation to food safety and food crime prevention, including through targeted testing, intelligence gathering and surveys.

* a zero tolerance approach to food fraud including by the development of whistleblowing and reporting of food crime.

* a shared focus by government and industry on intelligence gathering and sharing.

* improving laboratory testing capacity and capability to ensure a standardised approach for testing for food authenticity.

* introducing new unannounced audit checks by the food industry to protect businesses and their customers.

* government support for the integrity and assurance of food supply networks through the creation of a National Food Safety and Food Crime Committee.

* leadership and coordination of effective investigations through the creation of a new Food Crime Unit.

* ensuring mechanisms are in place for serious food safety and/or food crime incident management by implementing the recommendations of the Troop report.

The Food Storage and Distribution Federation vowed to work with the government to drive out criminality at all level in the food supply chain, following publication of the Elliott report.

Federation CEO Chris Sturman said: “FSDF agrees fully with the need to rebuild and maintain the highest levels of consumer confidence in food. We have already indicated our disagreement with Professor Elliott after his interim report highlighted cold storage and transport being weak links in the supply chain.”

The government said yesterday that it is to set up a crime unit to police the food supply chain following last year’s horsemeat scandal.  The move follows publication of the report by Professor Christopher Elliott on food integrity and assurance of food supply networks.

“FSDF member companies, which are predominantly in the stand alone sector, but with a few manufacturing companies with cold stores aligned to factories, are working to high standards. This quality approach is demonstrated by the increased number that have BRC Global Standard accreditation, and are prepared for unannounced audits as the report recommends.

“They are legitimate, regulated businesses that take very seriously the need to take proper records and provide traceability in accordance with current legislation and would seek to ensure that any possible suspect or actual criminality is brought to the attention of the authorities.

“UK cold storage facilities are classed as Food Business Operators and are regulated by the Food Standards Agency and environmental health departments of local authorities with some input and involvement of trading standards where ‘Best Before’, ‘Sell By’ and ‘Use By’ date codes are being controlled as part of the Food Labelling Regulations.

“In this respect, FSDF has recently announced a Primary Authority Partnership with Slough Borough Council and the Better Regulation Delivery Office of BIS, to which a significant number of FSDF members have now applied to join, thereby further demonstrating their keenness to collaborate with regulatory and enforcement bodies.

“Facilities in the main are asked by their clients to handle and store packaged products, the description of which is usually accepted as being what is on the box, complete with EU origin marks and labels. Where value added services are being provides, such as blast freezing, labelling, packaging and the like, OVS inspection is provided on an as required basis, depending on the type of product, volume and nature of operations being undertaken. Traceability information is maintained and used in accordance with the Regulations recently reviewed (SANCO 1489/90) and confirmed in new Guidance produced by FSA in 2012. FSDF and its members, along with BRC and BFFF, were deeply involved in the process, and our members were very supportive.

“It is interesting to understand that the EU Commission believes, post the horse meat scandal, the current arrangements and structures are fit for purpose and that there is no intention to impose the additional and significant administrative cost of complete visibility of consignments of animal by products of any category, through each stage of the supply chain within the EU.

Sturman pointed out that food security, supply chain resilience and management of the threat of malicious attack has been on the agenda for more than the thirty years.

“This has been more a focus on defending food and drink from ideologically motivated and other forms of malicious attack on food and drink products and the supply chain arrangements, and is an area which has had specific and particular attention from the Security Services (Centre for the Protection of National infrastructure (CPNI)).

“This work has not been undertaken in isolation, but with the full collaboration of all sectors of the food supply chain, and also resulted in the production of PAS60, in collaboration with BSI. The latest update of this very useful document was in 2010, and I believe would be a useful initial structural basis for focus on criminality.

“That said, the FSDF and its members will work with government and agencies at all levels and play our part in driving out criminality at all levels in the food supply chain. We already work with  DEFRA on issues of food chain resilience and look forward to the opportunity to work with FSA to address data collection and intelligence about illegal activities across the supply chain. After all, we can provide real, on the ground experienced based input into any outputs which may move foreword into regulation and/or standards.”

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