In the final week of March 2016, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) published its first ever food crime report, officially titled the Food Crime Annual Strategic Assessment (FCASA). The 58-page dossier, which is available to read in full here, highlights the threat posed by food crime to the UK’s food and drink sector, and offers advice to food businesses and consumers on how to identify, approach and prevent cases of food crime.
Generated over a 12-month reporting period from 1st August 2014 to the 31st July 2015, the report outlines the themes and trends in food crime, and aims to identify the gaps in understanding which plague the issue. The FSA’s National Food Crime Unit (NFCU), set up in the wake of 2013’s horsemeat scandal, carried out the research, and aims to use the findings to inform how it prioritises food crime investigations over the next 12 months.
Throughout the FCASA, the NFCU identifies a number of risks and vulnerabilities associated with food crime, including those which could potentially bring harm to consumers and the wider food industry more generally. The report raises questions about the severity of the risk posed by serious breaches of food crime and although organised crime groups have made little in the way of serious in-roads into the UK’s food supply chains the number of instances is still on the increase
Andy Morling, Head of the NCFU, advised: “This assessment confirms that while the UK continues to have some of the safest and most authentic food in the world, we must remain vigilant to ensure we keep it that way.”
Morling went on to say that in order for the food industry to combat serious instances of food crime, local authorities and law enforcement agencies must work closely with food regulators to deter criminals from carrying out crimes related to the safety and hygiene of our food.
He added: “That collaboration is happening. In our first year, the NFCU has worked in partnership with local authorities, police forces, other agencies across government, in the UK and abroad, to share intelligence and help take action where a threat has been identified. This is the first time we have had a law enforcement capability focused exclusively on food related crime. Working in partnership in this way ensures other agencies with a role to play in tackling food crime are not working in isolation.
“We’ve come a long way in our first year but this assessment makes clear that there is much more to be done. For many reasons unique to this form of crime, intelligence about food criminals is in short supply. Whilst we are working hard to gather information, we are calling on those working in the food industry to report suspicions to the NFCU to help fill these gaps. I’m confident that they have a wealth of knowledge and information which will help the unit ensure that UK food supply remains protected. I would like to re-assure the public and industry that we will handle all such information with the utmost sensitivity.”
From 2016 onward, the FCASA reporting procedure will be carried out on an annual basis, to monitor and prevent food crime, and inform the public on key issues relating to the governance of criminal activities in relation to the food industry.
All businesses need robust practices in place to guard against adulteration in the food supply chain otherwise the consequences can be very serious. If you’re concerned about food crime, or any other aspect of food safety and hygiene, don’t hesitate to call the Shieldyourself team. Our team of trained food safety advisors possess the knowledge and expertise to answer any queries you might have about food safety legislation, and can help to ensure your food business remains well within the limits of the law.
To find out more about the food safety compliance services we can offer you, call the Shieldyourself team today on 020 3355 2534 or visit shieldyourself.co.uk.
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