Food Crime Unit needs up to £5M more to investigate fraud

By Rick Pendrous contact

- Last updated on GMT

Brexit has focused the need for more NFCU powers, says food crime boss Andy Morling
Brexit has focused the need for more NFCU powers, says food crime boss Andy Morling

Related tags: Food standards agency

The National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) would only take on investigatory powers on top of its intelligence gathering activities if it received ministerial support and between £4M and £5M a year of extra government funding, it emerged at the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA’s) Board meeting in London last month.

The FSA’s chair Heather Hancock confirmed to Food Manufacture ​that she expected to hear back from government ministers about its request this month. If positive, the FSA would begin negotiations with the Treasury about the extra funding required, she said.

Provided ministerial support and extra funded were forthcoming, the NFCU would progress to its second phase of adopting investigatory powers over the coming year, Hancock added.

Adopting investigatory powers

“We can see no way of moving to phase-two ​[with the NFCU taking on investigatory powers] unless it is fully funded and subject to whatever ministers determine,”​ said Hancock.

“If we are moving forward with this then it would take some months working up the detailed business case and negotiating that with the Treasury and getting to the point of agreement on it.”

In a paper presented to the Board, the NFCU’s head of food crime Andy Morling highlighted the achievements of the unit to date and explained that it would need to be further resourced if it was to take on additional policing-style investigations.

Morling outlined the progress with intelligence sharing of “high level data”​ between the food industry and the NFCU, making use of the “safe space”​ provided by the Food Industry Intelligence Network (FIIN), set up in 2016.

Information about food fraud

However, more granular analysis and information about food fraud needed to be shared by the FIIN and others, he said.

The FSA Board agreed to his request for reassurance that the identity of the sources of information would be protected in order to make this happen.

Morling hoped the NCFU would have investigatory powers in place by April 2019 when the UK was scheduled to leave the EU.

Meanwhile, read how a Kerry Foods’s worker convicted of terrorism this week “posed a risk”​ ​to the manufacturer’s Burton factory, according to police.

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