Leader appointed to UK’s Food Crime Unit

Unhealthy Food CautionIn response to the 2013 European horsemeat scandal and other food-related incidents, a new Food Crime Unit (FCU) has been developed in the United Kingdom that will fight the trade of fraudulent foods, and build intelligence and evidence of the risks and the nature of food fraud and food crime.

Andy Morling was recently announced as the head of the unit, and brings with him experience in intelligence and investigations, as well as organized crime.

The horsemeat scandal saw contaminated beef products reaching supermarket shelves across Europe and led to a report commissioned from food security expert Chris Elliott, in which the FCU was suggested.

“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,” Elliott said in a recent article.

Elliott also made a number of suggestions to ensure consumers have absolute confidence when buying food and are the basis on the FCU.

These include:

  • Better intelligence gathering and sharing of information to make it difficult for criminals to operate.
  • New, unannounced audit checks by the food industry to protect businesses and their customers.
  • The development of a whistle-blowing system that would better facilitate the reporting of food crime.
  • Improved laboratory testing capacity, with a standardized approach for the testing of a food’s authenticity.
  • The encouragement of a culture within the food industry that questions the source of its supply chain.

Law enforcement agencies believe food crime is becoming a major problem as international gangs are said to be diversifying elements of their operations from drug trafficking and armed robbery into fraudulent foods.

“Criminals have realized that they can make the same amount of money by dealing with counterfeit food. Invariably the sentences are much lighter,” Michael Ellis, assistant director of Interpol, told BBC News.

For example, in China in 2008, an industrial chemical, melamine, was added to increase the protein content of baby milk. Six babies died of severe kidney damage as a result. Then, in the Czech Republic in 2012, more than 40 people were killed by vodka and rum that had been laced with methanol.

“Counterfeiting impacts on everyone. The criminals have no care at all for the hygiene or bacterial content in the end product. They just want the brand name in order to get their money,” Ellis said in the article.

The FCU is just one of a number of improvements the government is taking to ensure consumers have absolute confidence in the foods they purchase and aims to help them understand where their food comes from and that it is protected from food fraudsters.

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