Following on from, arguably, the biggest food scandal in history, the British Government is all ready to go ahead and set up a brand new food crime division to investigate and police the British food industry. This was basically the only option following a probe into last year’s infamous horsemeat scandal.
The new ‘food police’ was the overriding key recommendation from the food security expert Professor Chris Elliott, who was commissioned in 2013 by the Government to look into every stage of the UK food chain after the exposure of the scale and depth of the horsemeat scandal.
The new food police unit will essentially operate as a specialist team within the Food Standards Agency but with wider ranging powers. The inquiry last year stated that,
“There is a huge incentive for the criminal to pursue food crime… which risks proliferation if left unchecked,” furthermore, Professor Elliot (who is based at Queens University in Belfast, went on to state “I believe the creation of a national food crime prevention framework will ensure measures are put in place to further help protect consumers from any food fraud incidents in the future.”
Law enforcement agencies have the evidence and believe food crime is becoming a major problem. International gangs are said to be diversifying elements of their operations from drug trafficking and armed robbery into fraudulent foods. There was a huge scare in China with counterfeit baby formula – so much so that Chinese and Hong Kong authorities had to bring in customs limits on the import and export of westernised baby products and it has caused so much distrust in native Chinese diary products that New Zealand’s biggest export is now MILK into China… the ramifications of food forgery is huge across the globe.
When questioned on the subject, Michael Ellis, assistant director of Interpol, said: “Criminals have realised that they can make the same amount of money by dealing with counterfeit food. Invariably sentences are much lighter.”
“In my experience, the patterns used by criminals involved in counterfeiting are very similar to those used in the dealing of drugs. They operate front companies, they employ front bank accounts, they will have false declarations for the movement of their goods, they will mis-declare their shipments.”
The food police is not the only action from the report and Professor Elliott made a series of other recommendations, all of which the Government has said it will take on board.
They include better intelligence gathering and sharing of information to make it more difficult for criminals to operate; new, unannounced audit checks by the food industry to protect businesses and their customers; and the development of a whistleblowing system that would better facilitate the reporting of food crime.
Here at Borough Box we have our own solution… we’ve got a site full of amazing foodstuffs that is all food with a proven source. We KNOW (in some cases personal friends!) the traders selling it. Those traders know the farm that grew it and / or treated, baked or slaughtered it. You can have piece of mind that you know what is in it.