Elliott Review: Food Crime Unit underway

Food Standards Agency budget slashed by £22M

By Rod Addy contact

- Last updated on GMT

The horsemeat scandal began in January 2013, when horse was found in items labelled as beef products
The horsemeat scandal began in January 2013, when horse was found in items labelled as beef products

Related tags: Fsa board meeting, Food standards agency

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) will have seen £22M cut from its budget from the beginning of the horsemeat scandal to the end of the 2015/16 financial year.

Chief operating officer Andrew Rhodes made the claim at the FSA board meeting earlier this week.

“Since the year of the horsemeat incident itself ​[2013] through to the end of 2015/16, the FSA’s overall budget will have reduced by £22M,”​ he reported.

He claimed there would be enough resources to support the creation of the food crime unit (FCU) Professor Chris Elliott recommended in his final review into ‘horsegate’, published last week.

But he stressed that the cost of a full-blown FCU along the Dutch or the Danish models commended by Elliott would be about £36M. That was “more than a third of our existing budget, which obviously we do not have”​, he said.

On track

Rhodes, who is masterminding the formation of the FCU, said it was on track to be up and running by December.

More than 40 posts within the unit had already been filled “drawn from our existing incidents team, our horizon scanning team, our intelligence hub and many other parts of the organisation”,​ he said. “It sits with me, within our consumer protection division.

“We are in the process of recruiting an additional 20 plus staff and we are well into that process now. We have a very strong field of applicants, so we feel very optimistic about the quality of people we will have.”

The FCU would cost £1.5M in the current financial year and “in the region of £2M”​ in the next financial year, which would come from the FSA’s existing budget, he said. “We have reorganised our teams to create this unit,” ​he added.

Sampling

Rhodes moved to correct reports that the FSA had been given an additional £2M to fund sampling. “The FSA has given to local authorities from our own budget £2.2M in this financial year towards sampling,” ​he said.

FSA board members heard that the FCU would be reviewed after two years and, if it was deemed necessary to expand it, more resource would be required.

The unit will be supported in its work by other relevant bodies, including the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and the national Trading Standards network.

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