Professor Chris Elliott’s much-delayed final report into food authenticity was published today (4 August).
The report, commissioned by the government in the wake of last year’s horsemeat scandal, called for the creation of a dedicated food crime unit, the adoption of a zero-tolerance approach to food fraud, and better intelligence gathering on the matter.
Here’s a round-up of reactions:
Elizabeth Truss MP, environment secretary:
“We’re taking action to make sure that families can have absolute confidence in the food that they buy. When a shopper picks something up from a supermarket shelf it should be exactly what it says on the label, and we’ll crack down on food fraudsters trying to con British consumers.
“As well as keeping up confidence here, we need to protect the great reputation of our food abroad. We’ve been opening up even more export markets, which will grow our economy, provide jobs, and support the government’s long-term economic plan.
“The action we are taking gives more power to consumers, meaning they’ve got better labelling on food, better education about where their food comes from, and better, locally-sourced food in schools and hospitals.”
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability, British Retail Consortium:
“The Elliott report makes a valuable contribution to strengthening supply chain controls, a fundamental issue for all retailers. We particularly welcome the recognition that this requires good co-ordination along the supply chain and with Governments here and in Europe and that all parties must accept and meet their responsibilities.
“The retail sector has played its part by carrying out an extensive review of how we exchange intelligence, how we can tighten up testing and auditing and shorten our supply chains. The BRC itself has developed new key tools for auditing the supply chain that will strengthen controls and directly target food fraud.”
Stephen Rossides, director, British Meat Processors’ Association:
“The BMPA welcomes publication of the final report of the Elliott Review. The report examines the integrity and assurance of food supply networks in general, and was prompted by the horsemeat episode in 2013. Though this episode posed no food safety risks, it damaged public trust and confidence in the meat industry in particular.
“The BMPA has been in discussion with the FSA and other bodies to explore effective mechanisms for intelligence gathering and information sharing”
“Since there is no single meat supply chain model across the UK red meat industry, individual companies’ responses to the horsemeat incident will vary in the light of their particular circumstances, including their raw material requirements, product range, customer links, and manufacturing practices.
“Amongst the steps taken by BMPA members to address the issues raised by the horsemeat episode are a more concentrated and risk-based focus on traceability and authentication of raw material supplies, more rigorous approval and auditing of new suppliers, where possible, simplification of company supply chains, increased testing of meat supplies, and efforts to make the entire workforce more aware of potential food fraud.
“The BMPA has been in discussion with the FSA and other bodies to explore effective mechanisms for intelligence gathering and information sharing. We have also encouraged our members to alert the FSA, directly or via the BMPA, to any evidence or suspicions of food fraud.
“The BMPA is currently carrying out a comprehensive review of the pork and pork product quality schemes which we own and manage, with traceability and authenticity issues clearly in mind.
“One of the recommendations of the interim report of the Elliott Review was the need for more effective and challenging industry audits of food businesses. We have strongly supported this call for a new approach in order to replace the existing plethora of duplicating, repetitive, mechanistic and resource-consuming audits with fewer but more meaningful audits carried out by appropriately trained auditors. Such a new approach will require the support of all parties, including retailers and food service operators.”
Anne McIntosh MP, chairman of House of Commons Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee:
“I am pleased to see the final report from the Elliott Review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks, commissioned in the aftermath of the horse meat contamination last year.
“Many of Professor Elliott’s conclusions echo those made by the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee in its two report on Contamination of Beef Products and Food Contamination.
“We welcome the creation of a food crime unit which should help to deter criminals from seeking to defraud consumers”
“In particular, both the committee and Professor Elliott raised concerns about the reduced capacity for testing in the UK and stressed the need for more public analysts to undertake such testing. The government must set out how it intends to deliver this.
“We also welcome the creation of a food crime unit which should help to deter criminals from seeking to defraud consumers. The food and drink sector plays a crucial role in all of our lives and its integrity is of the utmost importance.
“Professor Elliott has kindly agreed to give oral evidence to the committee this autumn when we will examine his report and the government’s response to it.”
Barney White-Spunner, executive chairman, Countryside Alliance:
“Consumer confidence alongside protection and support for our food producers is paramount. This report is good in that it seeks to ensure that consumers can make choices with confidence and protection to ensure the horsemeat scandal cannot happen again.
“The Countryside Alliance has long called for clear country of origin labelling on food containing meat to protect consumers but also to promote our hard working farmers. We have some of the greatest food in the world and we will continue to promote British produce, adequately labelled, as a top choice for consumers.”
Andy Foster, operations and policy director, Trading Standards Institute:
“We are delighted the environment secretary has accepted Elliott’s recommendations in full. It is a major step forward for the food industry which was rocked by the horse-meat scandal last year.
“While we look forward to working with the Food Standards Agency in implementing the measures we worry about what is happening at local level to trading standards officers who are responsible for ensuring food laws are followed and whose numbers have nearly halved since 2009.
“The development of a UK intelligence and investigative facility specifically focussed on food crime is a very welcome move but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that responsibility for inspection and testing the food chain across the UK rests with local council officers. Unless something is done about restoring local enforcement capability then this could risk undermining the effectiveness of any national unit and the quality of the intelligence at their disposal.”
Warren Anderson, vice president, supply chain, McDonald’s UK:
“We’re proud that our supply chain has been highlighted by the Elliott Review as a best-in-practice example of a short supply chain that values long-term relationships. This year marks our 40th in the UK. During this time we have worked hard alongside our suppliers, and the farmers who supply the ingredients we need for our menu, to create a world-leading supply chain built on mutual-trust and transparency.
“Our investment in the UK food and agricultural sector has grown to more than £851 million annually over 40 years. We will continue to invest in sourcing close to home because we know our customers want us to serve great tasting food made from quality ingredients from traceable farms with high standards in place.”
David Young, partner and food safety expert at law firm Eversheds:
“Having identified in the interim report the key challenges, the final report makes key recommendations under eight headings – the ‘eight pillars of food integrity’ – consumers first, zero tolerance, intelligence gathering, laboratory services, audit, Government support, leadership and crisis management.
“The most interesting and challenging recommendations are inevitably around intelligence gathering”
“Many of these recommendations are around the capture of information and how it is shared to increase knowledge and transparency. None of them are unexpected in the sense that no new issues have emerged since the interim report.
“The most interesting and challenging recommendations are inevitably around intelligence gathering (the development of a ‘safe haven’ to do this), an overhaul of the largely self-regulating food industry audit regime to make it more focused and effective and a positive presumption that all food incidents are treated as a risk to public health until the contrary is proved. This last recommendation should raise the profile of the integrity of the UK food chain and keep it high.”
Maria Eagle MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:
“Consumers were rightly outraged by the horsemeat scandal, yet the government has dragged its heels and made absolutely no progress in the 18 months since it happened.
“The government must now show leadership and establish an effective food crime unit as recommended in the report”
“David Cameron approved changes to the structures of government that weakened consumer protection, culminating in the horsemeat scandal. The confusion this caused is highlighted in today’s report yet the government have totally failed to admit they got this wrong and have still not reversed the misguided decision to fragment the Food Standards Agency.
“The food industry is the largest single manufacturing sector in the UK, millions of jobs depend on consumer confidence. The government must now show leadership and establish an effective food crime unit as recommended in the report that can protect the integrity of the food we eat as soon as possible.”
Read this: UK to get dedicated food crime unit