National Food Crime Unit unveils whistleblowing line

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food crime Crime

Food Crime Confidential aims to help industry insiders report crime
Food Crime Confidential aims to help industry insiders report crime
The National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) has launched a whistleblowing facility called ‘Food Crime Confidential’, allowing those working in the food industry to report any suspicions over crime or safety.  

The facility means that anyone with suspicions about food crime can report it in confidence, over the phone or through email. The facility is particularly targeted at those working in or around the UK food industry.

The Food Standards Agency NFCU works with partners to protect people from serious criminal activity that impacts on the safety or authenticity of food and drink. It was set up in 2014 on the recommendation of Professor Chris Elliott, following his investigation into the horsemeat scandal in 2013.

Dishonesty at any stage

Food crime can involve dishonesty at any stage in the production or supply of food, said the NFCU. Food and drink crime was often “complex” ​and likely to be seriously detrimental to consumers, businesses and the public interest, it added.

NFCU said it would like to receive any information relating to suspected dishonesty involving food, drink or animal feed. This can mean that the that food or drink contains things which it shouldn’t, that methods used in the workplace for producing, processing, storing, labelling or transporting food are not right and that an item of food or drink says it is of a certain quality or from a specific place or region, but it doesn’t appear to be.

The FSA published its first assessment of the threat of crime to the UK food and drink sector in March 2016. The Food Crime Annual Strategic Assessment said that more than 20 organised crime groups had links to the food industry. It said that counterfeiting and piracy could account for more than £1bn of annual UK food and drink trade. 

More than £1bn

The report’s authors said that because of an absence of victim reporting, there were no reliable statistics of food-related criminality. But the authors found no evidence of widespread organised criminal activity in the sector.

In May 2016, food and drink manufacturers were warned by a leading academic that they could learn from other industries, such as the insurance sector, and use a “systems approach”​ to identifying fraudulent activity in their businesses.

Lisa Jack, Professor in accounting at the University of Portsmouth, told delegates at the Food Manufacture Group’s Big Video Debate, Food and drink fraud​: protecting your supply chains at Foodex that food fraud did not always happen in isolation. She highlighted that it could be associated with other criminal activities such as duty evasion, smuggling and extortion.

The NFCU head Andy Morling will report the progress of the unit at the Food Manufacture’s food safety conference,​ which takes place on October 13 in London.


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