A more forceful Food Standards Agency (FSA), that is equipped with responsibility for food compositional labelling is needed, according to the interim Elliott Review. This report was commissioned by the government specifically to investigate the supply chain after the horse meat scandal.
The report’s author, Chris Elliott from Queen’s University Belfast, wrote: “I consider that the lead role for supporting research into authenticity testing, and policy over compositional labelling should revert to the FSA, so as to have closer links to its operational activities.”
Mr Elliott has recommended that research into authenticity and information that supports clear labelling about composition should have closer links to delivery.
Commenting on the report, environment secretary, Owen Paterson, said: “It is appalling that anyone was able to defraud the public by passing off horse meat as beef. That is why I commissioned an urgent review into the integrity of our food network.”
According to the Elliott Review, the FSA should ensure that it has an up-to-date crisis management plan and work more closely with DEFRA and the Department of Health (DH) to make sure the organisations’ respective roles are abundantly clear in the event of another major incident.
The review recommended that the FSA should act as a hub of intelligence, that shares information about any prospective food crime threats with the industry and the government.
The coalition government shifted the policy responsibility of food authenticity and composition to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) - unless it is an issue relating to food safety. This move was widely criticised by consumer watchdog Which?
Which? believes that the decision to strip the FSA of responsibility for food standards, labelling and nutrition has compromised the agency’s ability to provide a fast and effective response to the horse meat scandal.
In response to the Elliott Review, Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said: “We support these steps towards a joined up approach to tackle food fraud and want to see the responsibilities for food labelling and standards move back to the Food Standards Agency to tackle the web of confusion exposed by the horse meat scandal.”