Food safety conference

Organised food crime: time to face the threat

By Michael Stones contact

- Last updated on GMT

Organised food crime was not yet a UK problem but could soon become one, said the head of the new Food Crime Unit
Organised food crime was not yet a UK problem but could soon become one, said the head of the new Food Crime Unit

Related tags: Food crime, Crime

The UK food and drink industry should start preparing now to beat the challenge of organised crime, which could plague the industry in “a few years’ time”, warns the head of food crime at the Food Standards Agency.

While organised crime is not yet a problem for UK food and drink manufacturers, it will become so, unless action is taken now, Andy Morling told delegates at the Food Manufacture Group’s Food safety conference yesterday (September 29).

Six months into his role as the nation’s top food and drink crime enforcer, Morling disagreed with Professor Chris Elliott, author of two reports into the origins of the 2013 horsemeat crisis, about the significance of organised crime in the UK.

‘I’m not convinced yet’

“I’m not convinced yet,”​ Morling told conference delegates. “I’ve seen little evidence in my first six months​ within the job that organised crime has made significant inroads into food.”

The fact that the food industry had managed to keep organised food criminals at bay was a tribute to the professionalism in the food industry, he added.

But he warned that time was running out to combat the growing threat from large-scale criminal activity. “I’m sure that while organised crime is not a feature at the moment, if we don’t give a response to match the threat, it could be something we are facing in a few years’ time.

“If food crime goes unpunished … then it leaves the door open to organised criminal elements that we see in other parts of the world that do make inroads into this ​[the food and drink industry].”

Tomorrow's crime

“I’m sure that while organised crime is not a feature at the moment, if we don’t give a response to match the threat, it could be something we are facing in a few years’ time.

  • Andy Morling, Food Crime Unit

‘Not a crime of choice’

As examples, Morling cited the Mafia’s infiltration of the Italian food industry and the establishment of a new Food Crime Unit in India. “The Italians do have problems with organised crime. We don’t yet have that problem as far as I’m concerned. The barriers to entry to organised crime are still too high – it’s not a crime of choice.”

Labour shadow secretary for environment Kerry McCarthy highlighted the threat of food crime​ during her party conference speech given in Brighton yesterday.

Meanwhile, watch out for more conference coverage on the latest food and drink manufacturing safety news – including video interviews with Morling and other speakers – later on FoodManufacture.co.uk and our sister publication Food Manufacture​ magazine.

Later this week watch our video interview with Morling in which he makes a passionate plea for greater trust and cooperation between enforcement officers and the food industry to beat food crime in all its forms.

The one-day conference – Safer food and drink: from the harvest to the home – chaired by Professor Colin Dennis, took place at the Lowry, Manchester. The event was sponsored by Alcontrol, Checkit, the Institute of Food Research, Klipspringer.com, Mettler Toledo and Sartorius.

Food crime and its consequences

Crime:

  • Serious fraudulent conduct involving food or drink
  • Serious and dishonest regulatory non-compliance

Consequences

  • Significant risks to public safety
  • Substantial financial gain or loss
  • Involves pan-regional, national or international offending or
  • Causes considerable public concern

Source: National Crime Unit

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