After the highly publicised horsemeat scandal, among other cases of fraudulent food, it comes as no surprise that 2015 will see Britain introduce a Food Crime Unit (FCU). Set up with £2 million of government investment the unit will combat fears that UK food and drink companies lose a huge £11.2bn a year due to fraud.
Advice from the experts
Established to fight an increase in fraudulent food crimes, the special force was the key recommendation in a recent report drafted by Queen’s University Belfast professor, Chris Elliott.
Elliot maintains that while the UK boasts one of the world’s most stringent food safety systems there is still room for improvement. “I believe the creation of the national food crime prevention framework will ensure measures are put in place to further help protect consumers from any food fraud incidents in the future,” he explains.
Specialists take a tougher line
The new unit will be fronted by a team of experts working from within the Food Standards Agency. Unlike softer approaches that have been used in the past the FCU will treat food fraud as a serious crime. Experts maintain that this tougher approach is necessary due to the fact that food crimes have become a major problem over the past few years, with offenders quickly realising that counterfeit food can turn a serious profit.
Michael Ellis, assistant director of Interpol, told BBC News: “This has changed the scope of investigations. Criminals have realised that they can make the same amount of money by dealing with counterfeit food. Invariably the sentences are much lighter.”
A streamlined approach
One of the core aims of the FCU is to streamline operations across the board. With food laws currently overseen by the Food Standards Agency, the Department of Health, Defra, Trading Standards and Environmental Health Officers the unit will help to standardise operations and ensure that nothing slips through the net. Powering the FCU is next generation technology that makes catching fraudsters quicker and easier. This includes purpose built food testing labs as well as a dedicated investigation team.
Strengthening the British economy
As well as safeguarding the health of the nation the FCU will also play an integral role in protecting the reputation of British food and drink exports. Elliot asserts that at this will help the UK to open up international export markets, boost the economy, create new jobs and support the government’s long-term fiscal plans.
So will the FCU deliver on its promises or is it just a waste of resources? Only time will tell whether or not it’s enough to combat the UK’s billion pound food fraud crisis. Take a look at our software to see how food businesses can decrease their risk.