It will shine the spotlight on Professor Chris Elliott's final report into ‘horsegate’, expected in mid-June. This will confirm Elliott’s calls – outlined in his interim report – for a re-evaluation of the UK’s food supply chain and the setting up of a Food Crime Unit within the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to investigate food fraud.
It also refocuses attention on the problems of resourcing those empowered to carry out such police work. Both local authorities (LAs) and the FSA are cash strapped and need extra funds if they are to carry out the extra intelligence work, food surveillance and product testing being asked of them.
Against this backdrop comes the news of a campaign to reinstate the exemption of small food firms from the costs of food safety inspections under the Officials Controls regulation. If successful, small firms will benefit. But the regulatory authorities will be the losers.
The problems of properly funding the FSA and LAs obviously pale into insignificance when compared with the stratospheric funding shortfalls facing the National Health Service. However, if the British public want assurance that their food is both safe and legal, then someone has to pay for it.
And if it isn’t going to be funded by government through general taxation, then the industry will have to pick up the tab.