The National Food Crime Unit has launched a new initiative to persuade food businesses to be more forthcoming in sharing information about criminal activity in the UK food sector.
It has published a new guidance document to explain how and why businesses should share information, and how such information is then used by the NFCU in its investigations.
“Creating a culture in which everyone is able and confident to share even minor suspicions of wrongdoing is vital”
Andy Morling, NFCU head
The report stresses the importance of industry vigilance as a way to prevent food crime. Key points of advice include always reporting any instances of fraud and other criminal activity as well as sharing suspicions, no matter how vague or speculative they might be. “This may range from a broker selling a commodity at a price which just doesn’t make financial sense, all the way through to increased levels of missing or reportedly broken branded product containers or labels,” the report says.
The NFCU will treat any reports as confidential and will conduct its investigations in a way that won’t damage informants’ commercial interests, the report adds. Reports would also be “protected from inappropriate disclosure within and outside the Food Standards Agency”.
The report also advises companies to implement “fraud resilience mechanisms” to protect their business (with new guidance on this for the food & drink sector to be published shortly by The Institute of Food Safety, Integrity and Protection), and to promote awareness of the NFCU’s confidential food crime hotline.
“Creating a culture in which everyone is able and confident to share even minor suspicions of wrongdoing is vital,” said Andy Morling, head of the NFCU.
A lack of willingness from industry to share sensitive information about potential food crimes was highlighted by the unit’s first annual report, published in March, when the NFCU called on the food industry to break its silence on criminal activity.