Food Crime Unit to step up activity

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

The Food Standards Agency's Andy Morling outlined the Food Crime Unit's objectives
The Food Standards Agency's Andy Morling outlined the Food Crime Unit's objectives
Head of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) Andy Morling said it was time to view food crime through a “criminal lens” rather than seeing it as simply a product issue.

Speaking at Food Manufacture’s Food Safety Conference in Birmingham on 21 June, Morling outlined the unit’s objectives as it enters Phase 2 of its operations. “This is the first new law enforcement agency in the UK for 30 years, which is huge,” ​he said. “It’s going to be streets ahead of the rest of the world in terms of tackling food crime.”

He warned that the focus of any action on food crime needed to be on the people in the industry as much as the food itself. “We’ve been approaching this as a food problem and haven’t been looking at this through a crime lens. It’s not the food that defrauds people, it’s people that defraud people.”

Addressing some of the myths of food crime, he warned that any producer could be guilty of fraud if the “push and pull factors are strong enough”​.

Detailing some of the characteristics of subjects that commit food fraud, he said that businesses under contractual pressures, in a weak financial position or showing signs of wider non-compliance were more likely suspects.

Morling added that there was “no silver bullet” to preventing food crime and urged proactivity within the food sector. “We don’t want to sit and wait for the next horsegate scandal, we want to be proactive,”​ he said. “We want people to feel they are able to pick up the phone and speak to us if they think their business is committing fraud or if they think one of their suppliers is.”

The FSA reported that a “raft of information” was submitted to them in the wake of the Russell Hume meat scandal earlier this year, which led to further action from the agency.

The FSA board recently approved £2.1m in funding for the NFCU over the next year. This funding will help it include an investigative capability, as well as have some responsibility for training staff from other agencies in food crime awareness and intelligence handling. Staff numbers at the unit will also increase from 22 to more than 80 people.

In the FSA board meeting, a full review of the NFCU was requested, to be conducted after three years, to be “assured about the overall delivery and the appropriateness of the structuring”.

Entitled ‘A focus on future law and threats’, Food Manufacture’s Food Safety Conference 2018 was held at etc.venues Maple House, Birmingham. It was sponsored by AIB International, Pal International, and Westgate Factory Dividers.

Please click this link​ to register your interest for next year’s conference.

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