2013-12-13   facebook twitter rss

Owen Paterson Responds to the Elliott Food Supply Review

Owen Paterson MP responds to the interim findings of a review he commissioned into the Integrity and Assurance of Food Supply Networks.

Professor Chris Elliott, Professor of Food Safety and Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, was asked by the Secretaries of State for Defra and Health to carry out this independent review of Britain’s food system in the light of the recent horsemeat fraud earlier in 2013. This interim report sets out the current weaknesses of supply chain networks in the UK (ahead of the final report to be published in spring 2014), and suggests measures that can be taken to address them.

Food Safety

The interim report suggests a systems-based approach to tackling food fraud, recommending a system where:

  • industry, government and enforcement agencies always put the needs of consumers above all other considerations; this means giving food safety and crime prevention absolute priority over other objectives

  • there is zero tolerance for food fraud, so minor dishonesties are discouraged and the response to major dishonesties is punitive

  • there is a shared investment between government and industry in intelligence gathering and sharing, whilst having due regard to the sensitivities of the market

  • those involved with audit, inspection and enforcement have access to resilient, sustainable laboratory services that use standardised, validated methodologies

  • industry and regulators give weight to audit and assurance regimes, so as to allow credit where it is due; but also try to minimise duplication where possible

  • government support for the integrity and assurance of food supply networks is kept specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (SMART)

  • there is clear leadership and coordination of investigations and prosecutions; and the public interest is recognised in active enforcement and significant penalties for significant food crimes

  • when a serious incident occurs the necessary mechanisms are in place so that regulators and industry can deal with it effectively

Owen Paterson said:
"I am pleased that Professor Elliott’s interim review recognises that there are good systems in place to ensure UK consumers have access to some of the safest food in the world. We want to keep it that way.

It is appalling that anyone was able to defraud the public by passing off horsemeat as beef. That is why I commissioned an urgent review into the integrity of our food network.

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. It is rightly highly regarded across the world and we must not let anything undermine this or the confidence of consumers in the integrity of their food.

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.

Significant action is already being taken to prevent and identify food crime, including:

  • unannounced inspections of meat cutting plants have increased, with 1,450 having taken place since January this year

  • the food industry undertakes a rigorous testing programme to ensure food authenticity. For horsemeat alone, the results of 31,000 tests have been reported to the Food Standards Agency

  • the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is undertaking a study to test that products which are labelled as being from the UK are, in fact, from the UK

  • the government has increased funding to £2 million to support local authorities’ coordinated programme of food sampling

  • the Food Standards Agency will lead further testing of beef products for horsemeat

  • the Food Standards Agency is working with the European Commission (DG SANCO) and other Member States to establish an EU wide food fraud unit

  • the Food Standards Agency is working with industry and the European Commission to identify further targeted sampling programmes and how they might be implemented

  • 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

The interim report will now be considered ahead of Professor’s final report due to be published next year.

Gov UK

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