Horsemeat: FSA ‘hesitant’ on horsemeat response, says review

There was some “hesitancy” in the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) response to the horsemeat scandal, an independent review into the organisation’s handling of the incident has claimed.

The review, published by the FSA on Friday and carried out by Professor Pat Troop, said that although the FSA did act early, there was also a “wait and see how this develops” view from a number of people. Troop said the main reason for this stance was because there was only one company with significant contamination, leading the FSA to think “it may be a one-off”.

As a result, Troop suggested the FSA should have allowed for the possibility of the incident being bigger than it was, with a view to “scale down” operations if it was an isolated incident.

Prof Troop also noted that not all FSA staff understood the organisation was leading the investigations into the scandal in the early stages, despite the Prime Minister himself asking the FSA to “urgently investigate”.

She suggested a need for improved intelligence across the food industry; a need for the FSA to strengthen its major incident plan; improved clarity of the role of government departments in large, complex incidents; and a need to review the FSA’s powers.

It was also recommended that the FSA should take the lead when it comes to building the industry’s capability to manage and detect food fraud. “This process should be further backed up by targeted sampling programmes, delivered by not just the FSA and local authorities, but also by industry,” Prof Troop wrote.

She added: “I found much that was good, but inevitably in any review the emphasis is on what could be better, but this should not detract from the hard work and commitment clearly demonstrated in this incident.”

A statement from the FSA, released with Prof Troop’s report, said it would publish a full written response later this week.