Food Standards Scotland’s Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU) has published its food crime priorities for 20/21, alongside a joint UK Food Crime Strategic Assessment with the Food Standards Agency’s National Food Crime Unit.
The SFCIU has taken an evidence and intelligence-based approach, working with partners and industry to identify key areas of concern which have previously and continue to be targeted by criminals, to the detriment of consumers and responsible businesses. The priorities are:
- Red meat
- Counterfeit / illicit alcohol
- Wild shellfish
These areas, assessed as high risk and vulnerable to food crime in Scotland, are set out in its Control Strategy, which also looks to address issues across the entire supply chain with its aim to identify, understand and tackle food crime; ultimately protecting consumers and our reputable food and drink sector.
FSS says these commodities have been assessed as high risk not because they pose a direct safety risk to consumers, nor because those sectors are less vigilant, but because they are particularly attractive to those with criminal intent. Preventative activities, which focus on food and drink, are commonplace across these industries.
Ron McNaughton, head of the Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit at Food Standards Scotland, said: “It is important to emphasise that the UK is an extremely safe food environment but no supply chain is immune to the potential threat that food crime poses.
“The SFCIU is focused on ensuring our food is both safe and what it claims to be, and takes a global, collaborative approach in order to protect public health and make Scotland’s food and drink sector resilient to food crime.
“The food and drink industry is one of three lines of defence against food crime, alongside consumers and regulators / law enforcement, significantly supporting the SFCIU in the investigation of criminality and the development of approaches to prevent food crime in order to protect the well-earned reputation of Scottish produce.”
Identifying emerging threats
The UK-wide Food Crime Strategic Assessment examines areas of the food supply chain which may be vulnerable to food crime, as well as identifying emerging threats which need to be addressed.
The assessment found that most food crime relates to two broad activities – either selling something of little or no value to the food chain as edible and marketable, or selling passable food, drink or feed as a product with greater volume or more desirable attributes.
In practice, this could include replacing ingredients with cheaper and inferior materials, falsely extending use-by dates, or deliberately marketing unsafe products as being fit for human consumption.
The SFCIU will continue its work with the Food Standards Agency, Scottish local authorities, the food and drink industry, Police Scotland and other partners to prevent, investigate, detect and disrupt food crime.