The Elliott report into the UK food supply has been published in full this week, with the country’s government pledging to act on its recommendations, notably the establishment of a food crime unit under the auspices of the Foods Standards Agency. Here just-food provides a flavour of the reaction to the report and the Government’s response.
“Consumers were rightly outraged by the horsemeat scandal, yet the Government has dragged its heels and made absolutely no progress in the 18 months since it happened. David Cameron approved changes to the structures of government that weakened consumer protection, culminating in the horsemeat scandal. The confusion this caused is highlighted in today’s report yet the Government have totally failed to admit they got this wrong and have still not reversed the misguided decision to fragment the Food Standards Agency” – Maria Eagle, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
“The promises made by retailers in the wake of the horse meat scandal need to be remembered, and promises to shorten supply chains and bring food closer to home should be honoured. We are supportive of the idea to create a food crime unit and look forward to finding out more about what this will look like and how it will work in practice. Although it is important that farmers do not bear the brunt of setting it up” – National Farmers Union president Meurig Raymond.
“The Government’s response to the Elliott Review seems to be papering over the cracks of a broken system. The reforms seek only to catch abuse of our supply chains once the damage has been done and there are still no controls in place to ensure supply chain managers are professional, licensed or competent. Ensuring that we have the right people with the rights skills to manage and monitor the system is a crucial component of our response to criminality in the supply chain but this has once again been overlooked” – David Noble, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply.
“While we look forward to working with the Food Standards Agency in implementing the measures we worry about what is happening at local level to trading standards officers who are responsible for ensuring food laws are followed and whose numbers have nearly halved since 2009. The development of a UK intelligence and investigative facility specifically focussed on food crime is a very welcome move but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that responsibility for inspection and testing the food chain across the UK rests with local council officers. Unless something is done about restoring local enforcement capability then this could risk undermining the effectiveness of any national unit and the quality of the intelligence at their disposal” – Andy Foster, operations and policy director at The Trading Standards Institute.
“A key theme throughout the report is the need for professional collaboration and partnerships if criminals are to be defeated. This means sharing knowledge and skills and developing trust across sectors. the FSA has proven an effective, independent body in ensuring consumer protection and co-ordinating and supporting local enforcement activities. Given the reduction in resources at a local level it is essential that this support increases and that there is clear leadership in tackling food crime” – Jenny Morris, principal policy officer at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.
“We welcome the establishment of the Food Crime Unit, the Cross Government Group on Food Integrity, and measures to facilitate greater intelligence across Government about the state of the food system. I also welcome the enhanced role for the FSA as our front line agency protecting the consumer. I hope that these measures become a permanent fixture in our food security landscape, and that this issue continues to be given the attention it deserves even when the threat of the horsemeat scandal is perceived to be over” – Laura Sandys MP and founder of The Food Foundation thinktank.
“The most interesting and challenging recommendations are inevitably around intelligence gathering (the development of a “safe haven” to do this), an overhaul of the largely self-regulating food industry audit regime to make it more focused and effective and a positive presumption that all food incidents are treated as a risk to public health until the contrary is proved. This last recommendation should raise the profile of the integrity of the UK food chain and keep it high” – David Young, partner at law firm Eversheds.