Tomorrow the UK's food regulator board of directors hold their final open public meeting for the year, with topics such as fraud and the future approach of the authority under discussion.
At the meeting a representative of the FSA's food fraud task force will present furtherrecommendations for new supervisory controls, including measures to ensure official inspectionlabels are not re-used for illegal purposes
Food fraud can result in processors receiving illegally sourced meat that that may be of lowquality or even unfit for human consumption, posing a health risk for consumers and a businessproblem for manufacturers.
Such trade cuts into the sales of legitimate food producers by placing cheaper products on themarket. Adulterated butter, buffalo meat declared as beef, tigernuts imported as flower bulbs aresome of the products that have been stopped at the EU's borders.
A task force on the issue was set up by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) board in April 2006 toinitially concentrate on red and white meat fraud, but it will consider other food sector problemslater in the process of making recommendations for action. The group of experts were also asked topropose sufficient legal deterrents to make it less attractive for individuals and companies toengage in food fraud.
The food fraud task force (FFTF) was launched in the wake of the FSA investigation into EuroFreeze, a Northern Ireland cold store operation that allegedly was involved in the illicitrepackaging, re-labelling and distribution of meat throughout the EU. In August this year, a UKcourt condemned the meat from Euro Freeze as having illegal health labeling and ordered thedestruction of 254 pallets.
In the first of three planned reports to the board, to be presented at the meeting on 7 December,the task force said it has not discovered to date any issues that need early action and at this time it has no recommendations.
"At this stage in their deliberations, the Food Fraud Task Force are of the opinion that the current measures for tackling food fraud are largely adequatebut may be augmented by recommendations taking into account the findings contained within thispaper," the report stated.
And as the Euro-Freeze case is still before the courts, the task force has not had the full details for detailed consideration.
" However it is hoped that before the final report of the FFTF is made in October 2007, the details willbe accessible and any lessons learned from this event can be considered and commented on,"the unit's first report stated as released ahead of the board meeting.
However members have identified some areas for further consideration by the board, including theproblem of the possible re-use of health markings.
The FFTF says its recognises that the movement of meat and poultry no longer intended for human consumptionmay occur in the same premises as those used for foods. Such a situation may occur when products materials becomeoutdated.
"In order to prevent any possible confusion and the possibility of food moving back to human food areas, it is suggestedthat once moved into animal by-product areas, all food containers should have their identification marks defaced or destroyed in order to prevent any re-use ofthe material or containers for human food," the report stated.
In an update for an FSA board meeting on 12 October, the task force recommended that currentlegislation and traceability procedures need to be reviewed.
The task force has also said it would consider the current controls in place to deal with foodfraud and their, suitability to control and deter food fraud. The review includes a review of healthmarking requirements. The task force will also review inspection and audit arrangements for meatplants particularly cold stores.
It will also consider whether inspections should be made more frequent so as to assess food fraudrisk. It will also review of the roles and effectiveness of the Illegal Meat Task Force, the foodfraud data base and the FSA's local authorities.
Laws relating to the prosecution and penalties will also be reviewed to see whether they act as asufficient deterrent to food fraud.
The members of the task force include those representing regulators, government agencies, theBritish Retail Consortium, the British Poultry Council, the Food and Drink Federation, consumergroup Which?, and the Dungannon Meats Group.
On 1 January this year EU laws on traceability that entered into force on 1 January 2005. Thelaws harmonises the bloc's requirements on the traceability of food products, the withdrawal ofdangerous products from the market, operator responsibilities and requirements applicable to importsand exports.
The new mandatory traceability requirement applies to all food, animal feed, food-producinganimals and all types of food chain operators from the farming sector to processing, transport,storage, distribution and retail to the consumer.
All information on the name, address of producer, nature of products and date of transaction mustbe systematically registered within each operator's traceability system. The law requires theinformation to be kept for a period of five years and on request, it must immediately be madeavailable to regulators.
Other discussions tomorrow will focus on the FSA's policies, a review of progress on theregulator's 2005/2010 strategic plan, a report on the UK national control plan, and an update on asurvey of diet and nutrition.
EU customs seized around 75 million counterfeit articles in 2005. Growth in seizures of fakesdangerous to health and safety also continued. For the first time, the number counterfeit foodstuff,drinks and alcohol products seized at the borders surpassed the five million market.