FSA chief seeks boost in food fraud resilience

The head of the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has launched a review of the processes it uses to tackle incidents of food fraud, in the wake of the suspected case of meat fraud that emerged earlier this year.

Central to the plans is an intention to work more closely with industry to look at ways in which the supply chain could be further strengthened to protect against rogue actors and criminal activity.

That has already resulted in agreements to work with industry bodies including the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, the British Meat Processors Association, the British Retail Consortium, the Food and Drink Federation, the Food Industry Intelligence Network, and Red Tractor.

Among the possible improvements to the current system are a “single telephone number or website” that could be used by whistleblowers to register their suspicions that food businesses may not be operating within the law.

The review will also look at the role that third-party audits – used by food companies to check their own supply chains – can play in passing on information to regulators to help prevent food fraud, as well as the FSA’s own processes for intelligence sharing.

A working group of FSA and industry representatives has also been set up, with a first meeting scheduled to take place this month.

The initiative follows reports last month that foreign pork falsely labelled as British has been sold by supermarkets, sparking a National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) investigation.

The allegations arose from an investigation by the Farmer’s Weekly magazine and suggest that a meat processor company that provides meat to leading supermarkets, schools and hospitals passed off thousands of tonnes of foreign meat as being British, and introduced spoiled meat into processed food products.

“There are several lines of defence in the food system that keep the public protected,” said Miles.

“Food businesses have the knowledge and controls to fulfil their legal obligations to sell food that is safe and what it says it is,” she added. “Local authorities act as a second line of defence, conducting inspections of food businesses,” although Miles also noted there are ongoing concerns about the pressure on local authority resources to tackle food crime.

The FSA is the third line of defence, she continued, inspecting some businesses directly, and investigating serious food crime with the NFCU.

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