Referring to recommendations to create a coordinated intelligence hub to manage information on international food crime, David Young, partner in law firm Eversheds’ regulatory department, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “There isn’t any suggestion from him [Professor Chris Elliott] that anyone in government has said they will make money available for this.”
Manufacturers’ margins were already squeezed by lacklustre food and drink value sales and the lingering effects of the recession, so the industry was ill-equipped to bear costs itself, he said. “If you are paying for a better system, that’s a good thing, but industry will say, ‘it can’t just be about us’.”
He also questioned whether, with eight months to go before a general election, the report’s recommendations would stay centre stage. “The sceptic in me, looking at these recommendations, is asking whether it will really change anything, whether if we come back in a year’s time consumer confidence will be improved.”
Anne McIntosh, chairwoman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, said the recommendations in the report needed to be implemented swiftly to slam the door on food fraudsters. “I would like to see the government move quickly to restore confidence in the food chain.
“The bottom line is: is the FSA able to respond more quickly to a food scare in the future? I would say yes, with the proviso that we implement the final recommendations in a timely manner.”
Elliott’s review cited a previous government pledge to make £2M available to boost food testing capabilities. McIntosh welcomed this and cautioned: “We need to make sure that money is ring-fenced and not going to be put into other things.”
The EFRA committee plans to quiz all stakeholders about Elliott’s findings in the coming weeks, she said. “One of the things I would like to raise is: the £2M the government has given for testing – is this enough? We have to accept the cost implications across the piece for what he’s proposed.”
‘Sensitivities about additional costs’
In the preface to his Review, Elliott, Professor of food safety and director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “As with all reviews which impact on industry, particularly small businesses, there are sensitivities about imposing additional costs, and I have been clear that I see no need for additional regulatory burdens.
“I believe that the systems I am proposing will help lift some existing burdens, especially from small businesses.”
McIntosh also said she would be looking to develop a clearer picture of current progress on traceability throughout the supply chain during subsequent EFRA meetings.
The Elliott review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks was finally published yesterday (September 4). It was originally expected to be published in July, but was delayed to allow new environment secretary Liz Truss a chance to examine it in greater detail.
Food safety conference
The Food Manufacture Group is holding a one-day conference, Safe and legal food in a changing world, to equip workers including technical and regulatory personnel with the latest information to help prevent food safety incidents.
To be held at the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon, in Warwickshire, on Wednesday October 15, it will be chaired by Colin Dennis, former president of the Institute of Food Science & Technology.
Speakers from Bernard Matthews, the Food Standards Agency, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health are taking part. To book a place, click here or contact Alex Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on: 01293 610431.