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Elliott Report calls for Food Crime Unit
Commissioned by the government in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, Professor Chris Elliott’s long-awaited report into food authenticity was finally published yesterday. The document makes eight core recommendations to the government, including the establishment of a dedicated food crime unit to work within the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The new unit, which will be established by the end of the year, will be supported by the National Fraud Investigation Bureau, The National Trading Standards Board and other law enforcement agencies.
Other recommendations include the implementation of an annual targeted testing programme based on horizon scanning, more effective unannounced audits and the protection of public analyst services, which have been subject to unprecedented cuts in recent years. There is no suggestion of reversing the controversial move that saw the responsibility for food authenticity moved from the FSA to DEFRA, but there is however a call for greater clarity concerning the boundaries between government departments.
Whilst the number of recommendations has been reduced from his interim report (issued in December 2013), Professor Elliott is confident that there will be a positive impact on food crime, telling The Grocer website: “Having seen the changes that have already been made, I am very optimistic. We are in a much better situation than we were in January 2013, but there is still a lot of work to be done.”
The report points out that local authority enforcement services have been ‘cut to the bone’, with Trading Standards departments suffering an average 40% cut during the lifetime of the current parliament. It warns that any further cuts will leave services unable to effectively protect consumers.