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Martyn Fisher

BY MARTYN FISHER

Thursday 4th September 2014, 12:00 London

UK to get new Food Crime Unit

Environment secretary, Liz Trus: 'We’re taking action to make sure that families can have absolute confidence in the food they buy'

UK to get new Food Crime Unit

Truss has backed Professor Elliott's recommendations. Photo: Policy Exchange

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The UK is to get a Food Crime Unit to fight the trade in fraudulent foods.

The special force is a response to last year's horsemeat scandal, which saw contaminated beef products reaching supermarket shelves across Europe.

The unit stems from a recommendation made in a commissioned report by food security expert Chris Elliott.

Other recommendations made by Elliot, a Queen's University Belfast professor, included: Better intelligence gathering and sharing of information to make it difficult for criminals to operate; new, unannounced audit checks by the food industry to protect businesses and their customers; the development of a whistleblowing system that would better facilitate the reporting of food crime; improved laboratory testing capacity, with a standardised approach for the testing of a food's authenticity; andthe encouragement of a culture within the food industry that questions the source of its supply chain.

The government has said that it will accept all of the recommendations made by Elliott, who claimed that while British consumers have one of the safest food systems in the world, his suggestions would take the situation to a new level.

The environment secretary, Elizabeth Truss, said: “We’re taking action to make sure that families can have absolute confidence in the food that they buy. When a shopper picks something up from a supermarket shelf it should be exactly what it says on the label, and we’ll crack down on food fraudsters trying to con British consumers.

“As well as keeping up confidence here, we need to protect the great reputation of our food abroad. We’ve been opening up even more export markets, which will grow our economy, provide jobs, and support the Government’s long-term economic plan.

“The action we’re taking gives more power to consumers - meaning they’ve got better labelling on food, better education about where their food comes from, and better, locally-sourced food in schools and hospitals.”

The move has been backed by the Countryside Alliance. Its chairman, Barney White-Spunner, said: “Consumer confidence alongside protection and support for our food producers is paramount.

"This report is good in that it seeks to ensure that consumers can make choices with confidence and protection to ensure the horsemeat scandal cannot happen again. The Countryside Alliance has long called for clear country of origin labelling on food containing meat to protect consumers but also to promote our hard working farmers.

"We have some of the greatest food in the world and we will continue to promote British produce, adequately labelled, as a top choice for consumers."

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