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DEFRA: Elliott Review publication not blocked

By Joe Whitworth+

18-Aug-2014

Chris Elliott was asked to carry out the review in light of the horsemeat fraud
Chris Elliott was asked to carry out the review in light of the horsemeat fraud

The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has refuted claims that publication of the Elliot Review has been blocked.

DEFRA said parliament needs time to consider the findings before responding, with it being put before them after they return on 1 September but no date has been defined.

The ministerial department denied that publication has been blocked because of embarrassing findings and said it was a timing issue involving the cabinet reshuffle.

An article in the Guardian newspaper said sources told it that publication has been blocked amid government concerns that the public would be frightened by the idea that criminals were still able to interfere with their food.

However, a DEFRA spokesperson said: "This is simply wrong, the Elliot Review will be published shortly, when it can be put before parliament. There has never been any attempt to block it."

The report was originally expected in spring but was pushed back and then it was planned to be released before parliamentary recess on July 22 but was delayed at a time when Defra secretary of state Owen Paterson was replaced with Liz Truss.

Food fraud report

Chris Elliott, professor of food safety and director of the institute for global food security at Queen’s University Belfast, was asked by the secretaries of state for Defra and Health to carry out the review in light of the horsemeat fraud in 2013.

Professor Elliott’s report to assess food integrity could be published on 4 September, according to our sister publication The Grocer.

Elliott published an interim version of his investigation into the UK food chain in December .

The interim report included findings such as those involved with audit, inspection and enforcement have access to laboratory services that use standardised, validated methodologies and there is zero tolerance for food fraud.

It added that there should be a shared investment between government and industry in intelligence gathering and sharing and when a serious incident occurs regulators and industry can deal with it effectively.

“My review to date has identified a worrying lack of knowledge regarding the extent to which we are dealing with criminals infiltrating the food industry,” he wrote in the interim report.

“I believe criminal networks have begun to see the potential for huge profits and low risks in this area.

“The costs of delivering the necessary safeguards may seem a burden but the cost of failure is even greater.

“The integrity and assurance of our food supply matters enormously in both protecting consumers and bolstering the reputation of our food industry.”

Delay is bad for consumers and industry

Maria Eagle MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, said the horsemeat scandal and the investigation into the poultry industry exposed clear failings in the food supply chain and a lack of consumer protection.

“That’s why the government’s continued delay in publishing the Elliott Review is bad for consumers and bad for the industry,” she said.

“Consumers rightly deserve to know what they are eating, where it has been produced and that there is a robust response mechanism when serious incidents occur so that the regulator and the industry can deal with it effectively.

“The government must show leadership to restore confidence in food industry. It must publish and then act on this review urgently before we face another food scandal.”

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