Call for tough action against food fraudsters is welcomed

FOOD FRAUD: Burgers are among the foods which have been found to be contaminated with horse meat

ACTION: David Lodge, head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, which has successfully prosecuted some food fraudsters

RAID: The conditions found at West Yorkshire Lamb, Beef and Poultry Ltd at Iron Works Park, Bowling Back Lane

RAID: The conditions found at West Yorkshire Lamb, Beef and Poultry Ltd at Iron Works Park, Bowling Back Lane

First published in News Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , T&A Reporter

MEASURES to prevent a recurrence of the horse meat scandal have been welcomed in the district as a Government-commissioned report recommends a national food crime prevention network with unannounced audits and a zero-tolerance approach.

Professor Chris Elliott, the man behind the report which was published yesterday, is calling for a "robust, effective" Food Crime Unit to protect the industry and consumers from criminal activity and support better links with food crime agencies across the EU and beyond.

He said consumers must be put first by ensuring that their needs in relation to food safety and food crime prevention are the "top priority".

The report highlights recent surveys by West Yorkshire Trading Standards which found that out of a of total of 873 food samples taken between April and September 2013, 38 per cent of them received adverse reports.

This included 44 per cent of meat product and processed meat samples, and 72 per cent of restaurant and takeaway dish samples. Common misdescriptions included the use of cheese substitute in place of real cheese on pizzas, samples of beef containing pork or poultry or both, and ham made from poultry meat.

A previous survey from June 2013 showed that out of 16 lamb curry samples, seven were found to have been made with beef instead.

David Lodge, the head of trading standards in the region, told the Telegraph & Argus: “West Yorkshire Trading Standards has a long standing commitment to preventing unsafe food and food fraud, the horse meat scandal has undoubtedly highlighted some deficiencies in the food chain and we would welcome any additional measures that will help to further protect consumers.

"We have in recent years directed more of our resources towards food fraud issues and have recently prosecuted a number of offenders, our actions will hopefully serve as a deterrent to those who put financial gain before the interests of their customers.”

In the report Prof Elliott added that while all consumers were at risk from food fraud, lower income groups spent a higher proportion of their income on food, particularly processed foods, which were more susceptible to fraud.

"In some cases the evidence suggests that problems arose because of unintentional labelling mistakes, but there is a concern that other fast food outlets may have been sourcing cheaper meat which increased the risk of food fraud."

The report, commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department of Health, was in response to the horse meat scandal that first began to unfold in January last year, when it emerged that frozen burgers supplied to several supermarkets contained horse DNA. Investigations found other beef products sold by retailers including lasagne and spaghetti bolognese were contaminated.

The Government said it had accepted all of the report's recommendations.

A year ago the Food Standards Agency, Bradford Council environmental health officers and Home Office immigration enforcement raided an illegal meat plant in Bradford as part of an investigation.

West Yorkshire Lamb, Beef and Poultry Ltd at Iron Works Park, Bowling Back Lane, was shut down as a result, but there were fears as much as 48 tonnes of meat processed at the site could have made it into the food chain. The investigation is continuing.

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