FSA tightens net on food fraudsters

By Rod Addy contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food fraud, Food standards agency, Food safety, Management, Fsa

The horsemeat crisis led to the FSA's proposed action plan, which also aims to tackle wider issues
The horsemeat crisis led to the FSA's proposed action plan, which also aims to tackle wider issues
The Food Standards Agency’s (FSA’s) food safety director Steve Wearne has fleshed out the FSA’s proposed action plan to deal with supply chain crises such as the horsemeat scandal.

Speaking exclusively to FoodManufacture.co.uk after publication of the draft plan responding to Professor Pat Troop’s independent report on the adulteration of processed beef products with horsemeat and pork, Wearne said: “The FSA is taking the issue of food fraud very seriously.”

In its action plan, the FSA stated it planned to set up an intelligence hub by December to enable it to respond better to supply chain crises, which could include the impacts of climate change.

It said the hub would help it “identify, and then take action to mitigate, specific threats that emerge from an expert analysis of all available sources of intelligence”.

Wearne said this would entail the use of web crawler software and similar technologies, managing, feeding and finally analysing data.

“This will deliver a means of dealing with intelligence that allows us to have an approach similar to the police national intelligence model,”​ he said.

Adulteration

In its action plan, the FSA also said it would work with industry and the European Commission to consider further targeted sampling programmes to detect similar adulteration.

The FSA also aimed to “create by December 2013 a repository or ‘safe space’ to which businesses could submit results of their own testing data and intelligence … and receive in return a sifted digest with some value-adding analysis”.

Wearne said this would mean that if manufacturers discovered adulterated food in their supply chain, they could reveal this to the FSA anonymously, avoiding damaging publicity. “The last thing they would want to do is to be identified with that, because it would imply their food was risky.”

Manufacturers, with the assistance of relevant trade associations, would have a point of contact with a third party to whom they would be able to reveal this information.

As the FSA launched the draft action plan, which its board will discuss and aim to ratify next Tuesday (July 16), Wearne confirmed the first meeting of the EU food fraud group had already occurred.

“The first meeting of Member State contact points on food fraud took place this week and will develop into an active food fraud network.”

Major incident plan

Work is already underway to develop a major incident plan by September in consultation with key stakeholders.

Other aims included the development and delivery of a programme of exercises based on the plan from April 2014.

Wearne said this could include trial meetings with industry simulating procedure in crisis situations.

“The FSA is building strong working relationships with many police forces, particularly the City of London Police National Fraud Intelligence Bureau,”​ the agency added.

Wearne will take responsibility for achieving many of the action plan objectives.

Troop's report was published last month.

  • Food Manufacture is holding a food safety conference at the National Motorcycle Museum, close to Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre, on October 17. Speakers include FSA director of operations Andrew Rhodes, David Brackston, technical director of the British Retail Consortium, and Sue Davies, chief policy advisor at consumer group Which? for more information, click here.

Related topics: Food Safety, Hygiene, safety & cleaning, IT

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