In this video interview – filmed at Food Manufacture’s Food safety conference last month – Watkins, associate head of food group DWF, said the absence of prosecutions 11 months after the horsemeat crisis did not reflect deficiencies in the legal system.
“There are probably half a dozen ways the regulators could have prosecuted offending companies,” said Watkins. “The fact they have not does not mean that we need more laws or that existing laws are necessarily wrong.”
The most pressing need was to employ more regulators to uphold existing laws, he continued. “As budget cuts hit and during this time of fiscal constraint, there are fewer and fewer enforcers. There are fewer people out there who can investigate food fraud and bring prosecutions. It takes time and money to bring a successful [food fraud] prosecution.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Rhodes, operations director at the Food Standards Agency, acknowledged that budget cuts had led to fewer inspections but denied that had jeopardised food safety.
The Food Safety Conference took place at the National Motorcycle Museum, near Birmingham, on Thursday, October 17. The main sponsors of the event were Intertek, Ishida and Alchemy.
Associated sponsors were NSF, Safefood 360, Softrace and the Institute of Food Research.