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Food supply chain interim review published.

Professor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University Belfast, has published the first part of his review looking at how the safety and authenticity of food supplies in the UK can be protected.

Following the horsemeat crisis in February 2013, Professor Elliott was asked by the Secretaries of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department of Health to look at what can be done to ensure that the food being bought and eaten by consumers in the UK is what it says it is.

Professor Elliott said: "The UK has some of the highest standards of food safety in the world. Food production is a global industry and we need to ensure that our high standards are maintained across the whole supply chain."

"The horsemeat crisis clearly showed criminal activity in the global food chain and while the next stage of my review will gather more evidence on this it is right that measures are in place to further protect consumers. The food industry and the government are already striving to achieve this."

In this first report, Professor Elliott has made recommendations about action that can be taken now to improve the assurance and integrity of food supply networks, including:

* All parties who operate and manage the food chain must put consumers first over all other aims. To this end, contamination and adulteration of food, along with making false claims relating to food products, must be made as difficult as possible to commit. Food safety and food crime prevention must be considered the primary objectives.

* Data collection and well-structured surveys should be considered as a matter of urgency, by both Government and industry, to fill the knowledge gap of the extent of any criminal activity within the UK food supply network;

* Industry should not relax their efforts to provide safe food but must also consider the prevention of food crime a primary objective.

*A project should be launched, led by the FSA and Department for Health, to explore the feasibility of a shared public laboratory service for the food authenticity testing currently undertaken by Public Analysts in local authority-owned labs.

* The auditing of food businesses, by Government and industry, particularly high risk premises, must be more focused on detecting fraud. Traders and brokers must be subjected to the same level of scrutiny.

* The 'Food Authenticity Programme', which has the lead role for supporting research into food authenticity testing, and policy over compositional labelling, should return from DEFRA to the FSA; and

* FSA should work to ensure they have an up-to-date crisis management plan, working more closely with DEFRA and the Department of Health to ensure their respective roles are clear in the event of a major incident.

The report also sets out a number of areas where further work will be needed to develop and implement the recommendations, including:

* A specialist 'Food Crime Unit', with the expertise to undertake investigations into serious food fraud, should be hosted by the FSA;

* Both industry and Government should create 'intelligence hubs', to gather, analyse and disseminate information about food crime;

* The FSA should remain a non-Ministerial department but changes to its governance arrangements, as set out in more detail in the review, are necessary to make it a more robust organisation

* Statutory guidance should be provided for those ultimately responsible for providing food to vulnerable people, such as hospitals, schools and the elderly, setting out what to include in catering and other food contracts to ensure the validation and assurance of their supply chains.

Work on the review will continue into 2014, with further discussions with Government, industry and other groups on how these first recommendations can be implemented. Professor Elliott's final report will be published in spring 2014
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Title Annotation:Informalia
Publication:Food Trade Review
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 1, 2014
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