Responsibilities for the testing, labelling,safety and traceability of food should be reassessed, a report from the National Audit Office on the horse meat scandal has suggested.
The report, 'Food safety and authenticity in the processed meat supply chain', stated that the handling of the scandal has been made harder by the level of confusion relating to the roles of the bodies involved.
According to the report, the split in responsibilities was responsible for weakening the ability to share information on issues relating to food fraud, meaning that the whole supply chain was therefore more likely to fall victim to it.
The NAO even warned that figures had suggest the number of cases of food fraud for 2012 were up by two thirds in comparison to the numbers for 2009.
To compound matters further, it said that one in six products had failed tests for the presence of DNA other than horse.
The report said: “While most would object strongly to the possibility they were eating horse, in the UK’s multicultural society some people will have much stronger religious and ethical views about eating other species. In the UK, pig DNA has also been found in beef products.”
Consumer watchdog Which? has subsequently led calls for the responsibility for such matters to be handed back to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
The group said: “We support the NAO’s recommendation that the split of responsibilities needs to be re-considered and that intelligence gathering needs to improve so that consumers can have greater assurance over what they are buying."
Other suggested improvements to be outlined in the report include the strengthening of intelligence gathering and a better understanding of food fraud incentives and opportunities.
It also believes that there is a need to improve target testing and monitoring, as well as urging the FSA to improve its level of understanding in terms of the costs faced by food control on a local level.