Speaking at a conference on the food supply chain organised by the Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum in London last month, Elliott said he was fairly confident his recommendations, which are unlikely to be changed in his final report, expected to be published late spring would be adopted by government.
‘More secure supply chain’
Elliott, who is director for the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “If the recommendations are implemented they will give us a more secure supply chain.” He described the response from all stakeholders including government ministers as “remarkable in the fact that it has been very positive”.
His interim report called for better auditing of food premises and the establishment of a Food Crime Unit within the Food Standards Agency, which he argued should be returned responsibility for the Food Authenticity Programme and policy over compositional labelling from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
‘Distinct lack of communication’
While Elliott said the industry needed to do much more to put its house in order, he also highlighted failures in government support during the crisis. He said: “We have many, many government departments and what I found [in inquiries about the handling of the horsemeat scandal] was a distinct lack of communication between those governmental stakeholders.”
To address the “variability” in the quality of testing for horsemeat in samples from UK laboratories following last year's scandal, Elliott said: “What we need in the UK is much more thought about the infrastructure of how we deal with the testing of food food safety and food crime.”
No-one detected the horsemeat scandal “because the auditing was not set up to detect fraud, the auditing is developed to look at matters pertaining to hygiene and food safety”. While safety auditing should not be downgraded, he called for urgent training of auditors to look for food fraud as well as hygiene.