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Elliott review so good government will want to bury it

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By Laurence Gibbons+

16-May-2014
Last updated on 16-May-2014 at 16:20 GMT

A very senior civil servant has voiced concerns that Elliott's review in to the horsemeat scandal will be shelved by the government
A very senior civil servant has voiced concerns that Elliott's review in to the horsemeat scandal will be shelved by the government

The Elliott review into the horsemeat crisis could be buried by the government because it is so hard-hitting, professor Chris Elliott has revealed.

He told the Institute of Food Science and Technology’s Jubilee conference in Kensingston, London, earlier this week (Wednesday 14), a “very senior” civil servant had told him his report was so good the government would bury it.

To prevent the report being shelved, Elliott has convinced a parliamentary select committee to agree to take on oversight of the review once it is published.

Sphincter muscles

“[This] I have to say, caused the tightening of a few sphincter muscles around Whitehall,” he added. “I’m talking to another committee in the House of Lords to see if they will take on oversight of some parts of the review.

“I’m also really interested in working with some of the main trade associations – British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Food and Drink Federation. (FDF)“

The BRC and the FDF had helped “phenomenally” during the review, added Elliott, professor of food safety and director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University Belfast.

The report would be published within the next month, he revealed.

Between now and the next three to four weeks, I will submit my final report to the secretary of state for environment and to the Department of Health,” he added.

“It will be a substantial document, and it’s got to be, much more detailed than the interim report.”

The interim report , published in December, called for 48 recommendations, including a new food crime unit, more responsibilities for the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the FSA to have a crisis management plan and more collaboration between the FSA, Department of Health (DoH) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

More work than expected

Once the review had been released, Elliott said he was looking forward to taking a break as it had been a lot more work than he initially expected.

“The thing I’m looking forward to now is finding a beach,” he said. “A beach that does not have internet, wifi and mobile phones – I want to hear nothing. What I am convinced is that wherever I go in the world I will still see bloody horses.”

Elliott was tasked with leading a review into the supply chain lessons to be learned from the horsemeat crisis by secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs Owen Paterson.

Some groups argued there had been confusion over who was responsible for the scandal happening and whose job it was to find those responsible and reduce the risk of fraud happening again.

Elliott claimed government had been non-committal over his interim report because 24 of his 48 recommendations were targeted directly at it.

Meanwhile, look out for our exclusive video with Elliott, in which he reveals how government had responded to his interim report, the process he has gone through to compile his suggestions and what legacy the report will leave.

1 comment (Comments are now closed)

Food Fraud and Guns

Hum a little birdie told me something similar a few weeks ago i.e. that the good professor had been advised his tone was a bit too strong ... and to be fair talk of a "headmasters report" and shooting a gun at you " as heard at the recent year ahead conference is maybe a bit strong. That said good for him to have the courage of his convictions. I have been part of a FSA sponsored research team working on a fraud prediction model and as part of our work Dr Jo Head undertook a literature study that underscored just how extensive fraud is. Our financial expert Proff Lisa Jack also found that the profits to be made from food fraud were very significant in almost all food categories... this is a much bigger problem than most people realised , there has been industry and regulator complacency and its time to shake the tree before food fraud becomes endemic. The CIEH new organisation IFSIP could have a very important role here in bringing together different but essential professional skills.

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Posted by david edwards
17 May 2014 | 17h18

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