Unions call for action on horsegate recommendations
Published:  05 September, 2014

The Elliott review’s final findings have been generally welcomed by industry, and the unions have reacted positively too, but have stressed that the government must now “turn words into action”.

Professor Elliott’s recommendations didn’t stray far from those first suggested in his interim report, including the creation of a Food Crime Unit within the Food Standards Agency (FSA), as well as better auditing, intelligence gathering and laboratory services.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) viewed the findings as a step towards better protection of the sustainability and reputation of the UK farming and food industry. NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “Today’s final publication of the Elliott Review demonstrates the government’s commitment to improving the integrity and assurance of UK food supply networks.

“Food fraud is an issue that must be taken seriously as it is corrosive to consumer confidence, which has ramifications right the way through the food chain. British farmers are rightly proud to be growing the raw ingredients for the food industry, the largest single manufacturing sector in the UK, and its success is reliant on consumer confidence.

“Committing to British farmers on a financially viable and long term basis will help ensure UK consumers can obtain easily traceable and excellent quality UK products. This report now requires the support of government ministers to turn words into actions to ensure UK consumers are provided with secure, safe and local food for consumers to eat.”

Unite, the country’s largest union which represents thousands of workers in the agricultural, food, drink and retail distribution industries, said consumers and food industry workers would greatly benefit from the proposed new food crime unit.

Unite national officer for food and agriculture Julia Long said: “The culture that encourages fraud as described in Professor Elliott’s report affects the safety of the food we eat. But it also affects thousands of workers who produce that food, including many of our members.

“If the nation is serious about cleaning up its food system, then trade unions need to be at the centre of these efforts – and ministers need to ensure that sufficient resources are made available to underpin the new regulatory system with the food crime unit at its heart.”

NFU Scotland also responded to the report, saying that the findings were suitable, but it is important that the recommendations are implemented properly. President Nigel Miller explained: “While a Food Crime Unit within FSA is an appropriate response, it must be supported by an appropriate level of funding and resource if it is to deliver. Intelligence and information sharing will be key and, given the European angle to the horsemeat scandal, similar commitments to tackling food crime must be taken in other European member states and further afield if we are to effectively tackle food fraud on all fronts.”