Food industry welcomes Elliott Review on horsemeat

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food

The food industry welcomed the Elliott Review – each group, not surprisingly, highlighting its own area of vested interest
The food industry welcomed the Elliott Review – each group, not surprisingly, highlighting its own area of vested interest
Food industry groups have welcomed the recommendations of the Elliott Review – each stressing their own particular field of interest – but all highlighting the vote of confidence expressed by the report’s author.

Commissioned by the government to highlight supply chain lessons after the horsemeat crisis, Professor Chris Elliott, of Queen’s University Belfast, praised British food safety standards, while recommending the establishment of a new Food Crime Unit and stronger powers for the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

“The UK has some of the highest standards of food safety in the world,”​ wrote Elliott. “Food production is a global industry and we need to ensure that our high standards are maintained across the whole supply chain.”

The FSA​ said the report’s main theme was the need for “a more coordinated and proactive approach to food crime”. ​It added: “Professor Elliott is right to highlight that there is a role for central government, local authorities and the food industry to play in this area.”

In response to complex and international food chains, the FSA said it had introduced unannounced inspections of meat cutting plants and boosted to £2M the funding to local authorities to support their testing programmes.

The Food and Drink Federation's​ (FDF’s​) director general Melanie Leech said: “Professor Elliott’s recommendations provide industry with a solid platform from which to build a joint strategy with government and enforcement bodies to combat food fraud.”

Leech said the FDF had produced a three-point action plan in response to the review. The plan – designed to help manufacturers protect their business and customers – included:

  • Engagement with members, on incident prevention and horizon scanning to detect emerging threats.
  • Talks with regulators and food chain partners to identify potential food safety or authenticity challenges and to respond quickly to emerging risks.
  • Guidance for its members on food authenticity.


The British Retail Consortium ​(BRC) described the review as “an important and thorough contribution to the review of supply chains”.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “Major retailers and the BRC have been addressing many of the issues raised in his report since the horsemeat incident, building on existing controls on safety to deal with issues of fraud. Retailers have reviewed and revised their supply chains, improved the way they audit their suppliers, targeted testing and worked with the BRC and industry partners to improve the exchange of intelligence.”

The BRC also welcomed the recommendations on increasing the government focus on food fraud. “We certainly don’t see it as a victimless crime and look forward to new proposals to target criminals,”​ said Dickinson.

Consumer watchdog Which?​ praised Elliott’s advice to put consumers first. Which?’s executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “It is only right the Elliott Review has recognised that consumers must be put first if we are to start restoring the trust so badly knocked by the horsemeat scandal, which saw half of consumers changing their shopping habits.

“We support these steps towards a joined up approach to tackle food fraud and want to see the responsibilities for food labelling and standards move back to the Food Standards Agency to tackle the web of confusion exposed by the horsemeat scandal.”

The Food Ethics Council said the report revealed: “a distinct lack of resources available to investigate, regulate and prosecute criminals seeking to make a profit from adulterating the food we eat”.

The FSA must be made more robust by changing its governance arrangements – while remaining a non-ministerial department, it argued.

Dan Crossley, Food Ethics Council executive director, said: “We’ve long argued that in order to make progress towards a safe and sustainable food system, consumers need to understand that so-called ‘cheap’ food is not actually cheap at all.

“There are huge social and environmental costs in producing food that’s cheap at the supermarket till – like costs to human health and animal welfare that were all too evident in the horsemeat scandal.”

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health​ (CIEH) agreed that food crime has not had the attention needed to protect consumers.

 “We welcome the explicit statement that all parties involved in the management of food supply networks must ensure that consumer confidence in the food they eat is their first priority. We also agree with Professor Elliott, that to ensure public protection, any food crime incident must be considered as a threat to public health in the first instance,” ​it said.

The CIEH said there was a key role for environmental health officers – working in both the public and private sectors – in the fight against food fraud and more widely in protecting public health.

“Without adequate enforcement numbers ‘at the coal face’ and with ongoing cuts to government testing facilities, the enforcement landscape will find it increasingly hard to tackle sophisticated food crime syndicates,”​ it said.

National Farmers Union​ deputy president Meurig Raymond said the horsemeat crisis highlighted the importance of a short, traceable supply chain.

“It is right that action is being taken to ensure that meat labelled as British is British and has all the high standards associated with British farming,” ​said Raymond.

Although we approve of plans to set up a new system of authenticity, we await with interest on details as to how that will be implemented. We would not want added costs passed on to our farmers, who have not been implicated in any way during this scandal.”

Consumers should look out for the Red Tractor logo to be sure of where their food comes from and of the standards it has been produced to, he added.

The Forum for the Future ​expressed a rare note of dissent. Its head of food Mark Driscoll said the review did not address issues at the heart of the problem.

“The way we eat and consume food comes at a huge environmental and social cost and the review fails to tackle some of the underlying drivers of cheap food,” said Driscoll.

“We need a better understanding of where and how our food is produced and measures to improving both transparency and traceability within food supply chains. Our supply chains are often too long, involving far too many intermediaries.”

Governments and others should develop a more strategic, holistic approach to food policy and food security if we are really to achieve a more secure and sustainable food system in the future, he said.

More information on the main recommendations of the Elliott Review is here​.

Read the complete interim report here​.

The full Elliott Review will be published next spring.

Related news

Show more

Related products

Carbon Reduction for Large Energy Users

Carbon Reduction for Large Energy Users

Content provided by ESB Energy | 12-Nov-2021 | Product Brochure

ESB Energy Business Solutions can help you meet your companies carbon targets by 2050. We offer a range of sustainable tailored solutions to reduce the...

Related suppliers

1 comment

Well done Prof. Elliott and Team

Posted by Jim Flynn,

Having read the interim report I have to say that everyone involved now needs to move things forward as soon as possible and I know from conversations with some of those in the driving seat that they have started already.

Some aspects such as the sector improving its awareness through food fraud training and implementing better (non paper based) systems for internal and external controls are long overdue and the sector must not wait until pressure is put on it but get on with improving things. It's also good to see that extending the Hazard Analysis Critical Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) approach to food fraud is on the agenda. This is a logical step that the industry is familiar with already, so the learning curve should not be so steep.

The government structural issues will take longer but I already know that the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standards team is making inroads to many of Prof. Elliott's recommendations where they can make an impact.

We need to wait and see who steps up to the 'plate' but if the industry gets on board with this then we will be well on our way to a more trusted industry with better outcomes and less big crises such as horsemeat.

Report abuse

Follow us

Featured Jobs

View more


Food Manufacture Podcast

Listen to the Food Manufacture podcast