Employees are being encouraged to spill the beans on food manufacturers that are jeopardising food safety by cutting corners in these cash-strapped times.
The Food Standards Agency's (FSA's) chief scientist Dr Andrew Wadge has called on the industry to make use of the FSA's "whistle blowing procedure" to report businesses that are putting consumers' health at risk by using poor food hygiene practices. Staff can report their employers and contractors their clients.
"We know through our incidents that things go wrong," said Wadge. "And there is also a real challenge in a recessionary time such as this to ensure that people aren't tempted to cut corners."
Tempted to cut corners
Wadge continued: "I certainly would welcome [whistle blowers] if people feel there are food safety issues and [the companies employing them] are not taking the appropriate action then absolutely we would we have a whistle blowing procedure and we would welcome people using that."
He stressed the importance of giving food manufacturers access to technical expertise to help inform and guide them on how to carry out their business in a hygienic and safe manner.
Wadge also reminded contractors and testing laboratories that they had a duty to report food and drink clients if they discovered dangerous activities.
Duty to inform
"In my conversations with people running food laboratories, I have always made it clear that they have a responsibility. If they find something that doesn't fit within food legislation or, in their opinion, might put the food supply chain at risk, then they have a duty to inform the food company that has asked for those results that they need to inform the competent authority [the FSA]," he said.
"And if the firms themselves aren't willing to do the proper thing which we hope they would be; and, by the way, they are legally bound to under general food law then I always advise people who run food laboratories that they are putting themselves in harm's way if they don't come and tell us."
At the same time, Wadge called on the food industry itself to share intelligence with the FSA on breaches of food safety along the supply chain. This is particularly important since this food sourcing has become far more global.
"We have to share intelligence a lot more in terms of what is going wrong and be a lot cuter about the [financial] incentives to flout the law," he said.
To listen to our exclusive podcast interview with Wadge, click here .
To read our sister title Food Manufacture's Big Interview with Wadge, featuring his views on how increasing globalisation challenges UK food safety, click here .