Fewer local authority inspections of food businesses are encouraging food fraud, warns the boss of the West Yorkshire Food Control Laboratory, after its tests recently revealed more than a third of food and drink products sampled were fake.
Dr Duncan Campbell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday (February 8): “I am sure there is a deterrent effect if a business is under financial pressure and thinking of cutting corners. If it’s not likely to have an inspection, then it is more likely to cut corners and substitute cheaper ingredients for more expensive ones.”
Banned by the EU
The laboratory’s tests of 900 products revealed cheese pizza which contained no cheese and a herbal slimming product which contained no herbs. Instead, the product contained a prescription-only slimming drug, which had been banned by the EU.
Campbell also highlighted the high salt content of sausages and ready meals, which contravened guidelines. Other abuses concerned chicken labelled as ham through to antifreeze derivatives used in vodka.
Nick Martin, senior vice president at traceability and product recall specialists Trace One, urged greater transparency from retailers and manufacturers to regain consumer trust.
“Consumer trust is extremely fragile: if they feel that the products they purchase are omitting key ingredients in the packaging, or even actively misleading them, then retailers’ and manufacturers’ reputations will suffer,” said Martin.
Retailers and manufacturers need to show they are being fully transparent on what is in their products and making this information readily available, he added. “At the same time, consumers need to be reassured that bodies such as local councils and the Food Standards Agency are doing all they can to enforce standards and inform the public.”
Food fraud revealed by Food Control Laboratory
- Cheese pizza containing no cheese but vegetable oil and whey.
- Cupcakes with plastic icing.
- Fake vodka.
- Prawns that were half water.
- Beef subsitituted for lamb.
Source: Food Control Laboratory