News item

Horsemeat scandal report shows food fraud is rife

HorseA report ( issued by The National Audit Office (NAO) examining the overall effectiveness of food safety and authenticity, revealed that food fraud reports have increased since 2009 and increased food supply chains have made it harder to trace the origin of ingredients.

Using a pizza as an example, the NAO report explained how the Food Safety Authority of Ireland's analysis of one pizza found its 35 different ingredients had passed through 60 countries. 

According to the 'Food safety and authenticity in the processed meat supply chain' report: "The (Food Standards) Agency recognises the need to rebalance assurance activity so that it more accurately reflects the risk associated with many of today's food products and their longer supply chains." 

The NAO says the horsemeat scandal 'exposed weaknesses in controls in the food supply chain' including evidence that UK authorities had not tested for horsemeat since 2003. Rising beef prices and a worldwide drop in the price of horsemeat led the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to begin testing for adulteration of beef products in November 2012. 

According to the report, "the horsemeat incident has revealed a gap between citizen's expectations of the controls over the authenticity of their food, and the effectiveness of those controls."

It was also claimed that the confusion created by a split in food policy responsibilities led to weakened intelligence sharing. With 12 separate databases holding intelligence on food safety and fraud incidents, the report describes how difficult it is for 'coherent analysis and patterns of related incidents to be identified.'

Leon Livermore, chief executive at the Trading Standards Institute, said: "It is encouraging to see that mistakes and flaws are being identified and addressed in the wake of the horsemeat incident. 

"Trading standards will continue to support the work of the Food Standards Agency, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Department of Health, but as local authorities face funding cuts, the trading standards services will be hit hard. A great amount of trading standards' work is proactive and preventative in its nature and any further cuts may see these services stretched to the point where it will be harder to conduct regular and extensive testing to catch food fraudsters."


Notes for Editors:

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Trading Standards Institute (TSI)

TSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally.  We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities. TSI’s members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses. 

DATE: 10 October 2013