Sir: We welcome the Elliott Review and the acceptance of its recommendations by the government (‘UK to trial food crime unit, 6 September, p4). However, as someone who teaches ’financial crime and the law’ on our forensic accounting programmes, the definitions of ‘food crime’ and ‘food fraud’ used in the report are interesting, to say the least.
In the review, food fraud is committed by ‘rogues’ and food crime by ‘organised criminals’ infiltrating food supply chains. But crime is any act prohibited by law with penal consequences. Fraud is a crime and so are certain breaches of the Food Act 1990, for example. Some food frauds are accompanied by financial crimes such as tax or Customs duty evasion.
The newly coined phrases of food fraud and food crime need to be used with care. The Elliott Review sets out excellent recommendations for dealing with organised crime in food - which could be termed organised food crime. Mislabelling, substitution, adulteration and counterfeiting are fraud by whoever carries them out, and this may be individuals or companies as well as gangs, and are not always opportunistic. Contamination whether malicious or negligent can be crime. Food businesses need to build up resilience to fraud from wherever. Food crime should be the umbrella term rather than the narrow term used in the review to justify certain courses of action.
Professor Lisa Jack, Food Fraud Group, Centre for Counter Fraud Studies, and Portsmouth Business School University of Portsmouth