The FSA’s National Food Crime Unit has announced the launch of Food Crime Confidential, a whistleblowing ‘hotline’ targeted at workers in the UK’s food sector.

The new facility – which went live this week – will allow anyone with suspicions about food crime to report them in confidence over the phone on 020 7276 8787 or via email.

While the service is open to anyone with information about food that is dishonestly produced, made or sold, the NFCU said it was most eager to hear from those who work in or around the food industry.

Victim reporting is low in food crime because consumers often don’t realise they have been a victim, so the FSA hopes the hotline will help industry insiders overcome their reluctance to speak to the authorities.It stressed all calls would be treated with complete discretion.

“We recognise that picking up the phone to pass on suspicions about an employer or an associate can be a big deal,” said head of food crime Andy Morling. “That’s why we’ll ensure the information provided will be handled sensitively and professionally.”

Morling is set to appear on ITV’s Tonight programme this evening (23 June) to publicise the initiative, and details will be shared on Twitter.

The NFCU was set up in response to a review of the horsemeat scandal by Professor Chris Elliott, director of the Institute for Global Food Security.

Elliott, who previously raised concerns over lack of tangible progress on the NFCU, welcomed Food Crime Confidential as an “excellent initiative, adding it  would hopefully increase the number of tip-offs to the FSA, which are low compared with other European countries.

“I very much hope that anyone working in the food industry with information on criminal activity in our food supply system will use this confidential way of reporting their suspicions,” he added.

Eoghan Daly, policy and technical advisor (food) at The Institute of Food Safety Integrity & Protection, also backed the initiative, calling it “a great move” that “should be publicised widely”.