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Is your supply chain susceptible to food fraud?

The Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Emily Miles, has issued an update on the FSA’s criminal investigations into suspected meat fraud. In the update, the FSA confirmed that an investigation remains pending but there is no indication that unsafe food is currently on the market.

An image of four meat steaks on a wooden chopping board. The article is about food fraud which can include meat items not described accurately.

The update follows food fraud allegations in relation to a single supplier in August 2021. The supplier has allegedly supplied products labelled as British when they were in fact sourced from other countries. The FSA update stated that in March 2023 it received additional intelligence about suspected wider fraud, leading to the FSA executing a warrant at a premises, and seizing further evidence.

Miles explained: “This is a live investigation which means we are looking into all new lines of inquiry with the relevant local authorities, including investigating potential food hygiene breaches. This is alongside the work we are doing to investigate food fraud. Based on the investigation to date, there is no indication that food is unsafe or there is an increased risk to consumers.


What does the regulator plan to do?

In light of the perceived criticism of how the FSA has handled the ongoing investigation into meat fraud, the FSA is to review how it currently protects the food system against fraud and will explore improvements to the current system. Speaking at a recent roundtable, the FSA announced three key pledges:

  • The introduction of a single telephone number or website that whistle-blowers can contact to report concerns.
  • Strengthening the role that third-party audits can play in passing on information to regulators to help prevent food fraud.
  • Developing the best format and mechanism for the FSA to share intelligence-based alerts with businesses to better warn them about problems in supply chains.


What can food businesses do to protect their business from fraud?

Food business operators (FBOs) should regularly undertake checks, audits and risk assessments in relation to food products, suppliers, supply chains and contractual obligations. FBOs should also assess the risk to their supply chains specifically in light of pressures from current market conditions and shortages, not just in general. Where is the weak link in the supply chain that could be exploited by fraudsters? Remember that, in general, the shorter the supply chain the less the risk of things going wrong. Keeping supply chains to known factors will help to reduce the risk of meat fraud.


How we can help

The Food & Drink team at Walker Morris is multi-disciplinary made up of commercial contract lawyers, regulatory experts and logistics and supply chain specialists. Make sure you give us a call if you want to discuss any aspect of your Food & Drink business.