Elliott calls for food analysts to unite to fight fraud

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Elliott: 'There are only six local authorities with their own public analysts'
Elliott: 'There are only six local authorities with their own public analysts'

Related tags Food standards agency

Discussions are underway to boost the power of local authority public analysts in a bid to fight food fraud, according to professor Chris Elliott, author of the prominent review into ‘horsegate’.

Speaking at an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee meeting in the House of Commons yesterday (November 18), Elliott, professor of food safety at the Institute for Global Food Security, Queens University, Belfast, said:  “The infrastructure in the UK in relation to public analysts has become very fragile.

“There are only six local authorities with their own public analysts. Without the infrastructure, what happens when we have the next food crisis?”

‘Has to happen soon’

Elliott said he had discussed the issue “at length” ​with the government. “The Department of Health ​[DH] wants Public Health England ​[PHE] to take a lead now in working with public analysts and local authorities that own analyst laboratories to talk about a shared service. That has to happen relatively soon.”

The government had taken up recommendations in his interim review to address the current shortage of public analysts shortly after it was published in December 2013, he said. That showed that it had recognised the system was fragile, he told the EFRA committee.

“It’s still incredibly fragile. I’m really hoping very soon they ​[PHE] will come back to the DH and say ‘sharing is an option we want to proceed with and here is a project manager’.”

Struggling with funding

Elliot said local authority-owned public analysts were struggling with funding and found it difficult to bid for private sector work because they did not have much clout individually. “I want to work towards a position where what they can do is work together and bid collectively.”

However, FoodManufacture.co.uk understands that because the number of well-resourced public analysts is now so small, there are fierce rivalries between them, which have to be overcome before they can co-operate effectively.

Elliott said it was encouraging that the Food Standards Agency had increased funding for local authority food sampling and analysis to £2M. But he said more would be needed.

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