Intelligence hub to combat safety threat

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food industry, Food standards agency

Improved information and intelligence sharing can help avert scandals
Improved information and intelligence sharing can help avert scandals
Better intelligence sharing between the food industry and regulators will be needed if another food fraud like last year’s horsemeat scandal is to be averted in future, experts have warned.

An ‘intelligence hub’ has been set up by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) following an internal inquiry last year into horsemeat carried out for the Agency by Professor Pat Troop, former chief executive of the Health Protection Agency. Troop recommended placing more emphasis on the effective sharing of information and intelligence by the food industry. The FSA already has 'whistleblower’ procedures in place, but it is felt it needs to gather more intelligence from the supply chain.

Emerging risks

The intelligence hub will be focused around the FSA’s emerging risks programme, concentrating on food safety, product integrity and economically motivated adulteration. It will make use of the results of a data mapping exercise of the food industry being carried out by Professor Tony Hines of Leatherhead Food Research, who was commissioned by the FSA last month to carry out this work.

Food authenticity expert Mark Woolfe, formerly of the FSA, has welcomed the decision. “[Hines] is getting intelligence from the industry and that is a really valuable asset for detecting fraud, because the industry knows when there is fraud,” said Woolfe.

Build investigations

According to Hines, even the smallest pieces of information – which could be channelled through trade associations for anonymity – could be valuable in tackling food fraud. “Trade associations are an ideal conduit for their members to feed information into,”​ said Hines. “Fragments, intelligence or snippets of information could be passed on to a trade association and help build investigations.”

In the interim report of Professor Chris Elliott’s inquiry into last year’s horsemeat scandal, carried out for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and published last December, he called for a new food crime unit to be set up within the FSA. If this is accepted by government, it remains to be seen how the intelligence hub will be integrated within the unit.

Related topics: Food Safety, Meat, poultry & seafood

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