Food testing resources should be diverted higher up supply chain

15 October 2013

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16 October 2013 | Paul Snell

More resources should be dedicated to investigating food safety and authenticity further up the supply chain.

According to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO), currently a quarter of all public resources are used to check slaughterhouses, cutting plants and primary producers. But, it argued, later stages of the production process such as the manufacture of processed meat, could present more threat.

However, the NAO said to achieve this there would need to be European agreement, as EU regulation is the reason most of the resource is directed to the point of origin.

The report, Food safety and authenticity in the processed meat supply chain, is the result of an investigation into the government’s monitoring and enforcement of legislation for food safety in England.

The study also found there is confusion between responsibilities for food safety and authenticity. Safety is the responsibility of the Food Standards Agency, where as authenticity is down to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Local authorities also have a role in enforcing both safety and authenticity.

The NAO recommended the government assess whether this division of responsibility works, and to either bring it under one appropriate entity or ensure robust governance to enable joint working and communication.

“The division of responsibilities for food safety and authenticity has created confusion,” said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO. “The Government needs to remove this confusion, and improve its understanding of potential food fraud and how intelligence is brought together and shared.”

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