Elliott report leads to calls for modernisation

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Elliott's report said firms were relying too much on paper-based systems
Elliott's report said firms were relying too much on paper-based systems

Related tags Food fraud Food Fraud

Paper-based systems in the food industry are not robust enough to help fight food fraud, a quality management boss working in the sector has claimed.

Following the release of the government-commissioned Elliott report on the horsemeat scandal last month, Jim Flynn, global business manager of food and drink at Gael, a compliance management company, called for modernisation of paper-based systems in the industry.

He said Professor Chris Elliott’s interim report was extensive and detailed and the industry needed to move forward quickly in following the recommendations.

“The report has said that businesses are relying too much on paper-based control systems. The industry needs to modernise its food standards systems with regard to fraud,​” Flynn added.

Battling food fraud

Elliott's acknowledgement of hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) practices in battling food fraud was also a logical point, according to Flynn. “The industry is familiar with it already, so the learning curve should not be so steep,”​ he added.

Having a standard HACCP for fraud would allow an industry that does not know how to deal with fraud to take effective action. It would be a “relatively small leap”.

Elliott, who is the director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, made a number of recommendations in his interim report about how to defend the safety and authenticity of UK food supplies.

It was recommended that the Food Authenticity Programme, which supports research into food fraud authenticity testing, and policy over compositional labelling, should return from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

David Young, a partner specialising in food and drink at law firm Eversheds, said this was encouraging. “Giving back some of the substance, resources and power to the FSA is a good thing. It was a major sting for the agency when that ​[Food Authenticity Programme] was taken away.”

Notable aspects of the report

But, according to Young, one of the notable aspects of the report was Elliott’s recommendation that the industry prioritises criminal activity in the food chain. “That certainly hasn’t been, in any sense, prioritised before the horsemeat​ [scandal],” he said.

The horsemeat scandal had exposed criminal activity across the global food chain, Elliott said. “And, while the next stage of my review will gather more evidence on this, it is right that measures are in place to further protect consumers.”

A specialist ‘Food Crime Unit’ with “expertise to undertake investigations into serious food fraud”​ suggested by Elliott was questioned by Young.

Young said he would be interested in how the Food Crime Unit would work, what it would look like and how it would be funded. He said he could see local authorities “pulling together”​ their resources to ensure Food Crime Unit enforcement worked.

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