Professor Chris Elliott will urge delegates at this year’s Food Fraud, Culture & Modern Catering Processes conference on 26 September, that work still needs to be done to ensure food fraud is tackled.
The conference, which is being held at Doncaster Racecourse, South Yorkshire, is being organised by food-safety qualification organisation Highfield Qualifications.
It was at the company’s previous conference two years ago that Elliott revealed that up to 50,000 horses had ‘disappeared’ from Europe during the financial meltdown, which started in 2008.
During this time, it is believed the horses entered the food-supply chain and, according to Highfield, many food producers believe food fraud is a low-grade infraction of the law or the bending of a few rules by hard-pressed businesses.
Cheap substitute meat
However, Highfield warned such activity is a global criminal enterprise involving gangs operating in a similar way to drug cartels. It added that being able to pass off cheap substitute meat can be extremely profitable for those gangs.
Elliott, who was appointed by the Government to investigate the horsemeat scandal and food fraud in the UK, will outline that while progress has been made, food safety has to remain a priority for authorities and the police or it will happen again.
He said: “A great deal of headway has been made since the publication of the Elliott Review into the Integrity and Assurance of Food Supply Networks.
“Plus we have seen the establishment of the Food Standards Agency’s food crime unit, which is beginning to have an impact.
“However, food fraud must remain a priority – among many competing priorities for enforcement authorities – if we are to maintain that progress and ensure we see no recurrence of previous scandals.”
Pub trade bodies
Trade bodies have also had their say on the potential for a horsemeat scandal to happen again in the UK food industry.
Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “It is crucial there is total transparency in the supply chain and in the way businesses and customers receive the correct product.
“Customers must not eat something without being aware of what it is and businesses should double check if they have any reservations about the meat they are buying.”
British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “Tackling food fraud certainly is very important to ensure confidence among consumers. Any concerns should be brought to the attention of the Food Standards Agency’s food fraud division.”