Despite having doubled in size since its inception in 2015, the Food Industry Intelligence Network (FIIN) is looking for more members in alcoholic drinks, commodity food ingredients and food-to-go retail – sectors considered “highly vulnerable” to fraud.
Established as a response to the Elliott Review into the horsemeat scandal, FIIN seeks to ensure the integrity of food supply chains through the collection and analysis of intelligence. It now represents £115bn of cross-category retailers, wholesalers and food manufacturers in the UK.
Protecting consumers from fraud
All of these businesses shared a common goal – to protect UK consumers from food fraud – said FIIN board member and independent advisor Chris Elliott, professor of food safety at Queen’s University Belfast. “The more members we have, the greater our data-set and the more targeted and robust our intelligence becomes,” said Elliott.
The network had welcomed nine new companies in the past 12 months alone, he added. “This growth has meant there are greatly improved information collection and sharing systems now in place, and the opportunity for the UK food retail system to be penetrated or compromised is, thankfully, much reduced.
“However, there are some categories where we would like to have wider representation, such as alcoholic drinks, commodity food ingredients, and food-to-go restaurants. To me, these sectors remain highly vulnerable to fraud.”
Since reporting first commenced, FIIN has collated more than 250,000 product authenticity test results, which have been analysed and disseminated between members to provide insight and intelligence.
A fifth of the current membership is made up of firms with a turnover of £100m or less. The network has also signed agreements with the Food Standards Agency’s National Food Crime Unit, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, to establish two-way information exchange.
“Food authenticity is one of six strategic outcomes of the FSS’s five-year strategy,” said Ron McNaughton, head of the Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit at the FSS.
“Our close links with FIIN and the benefits of a two-way intelligence-sharing agreement help to support this aim.”