Professor Elliott, a food safety expert who was appointed by the UK government to investigate the 2013 horsemeat scandal, warned that a “combination of factors” ranging from the UK’s exit from the European Union to global warming mean that the country’s food supply is potentially less secure than at any point in the past 70 years.
The Elliott review, published in 2014, informed much of the UK’s food standards strategy following the horse meat scandal, when horsemeat was fraudulently passed into the European food chain. Professor Elliott said that while progress has been made over the last three years, further work is required.
“We have made good progress on the issue of food fraud since the publication of the Elliott Review into the Integrity and Assurance of Food Supply Networks in 2014. However, although food fraud remains a priority to those of us concerned with the integrity of our food supply, we need to be versatile and responsive in how we deal with other – potentially greater – challenges to come, especially around Brexit and global warming.”
Brexit, climate change, price-pressure heighten risk
Speaking at a conference of food industry experts, the professor warned that the UK is not yet prepared to meet the “many challenges” that Brexit will pose to the safe supply and production of food. This, he argued, means compromises on food safety standards is a “real and immediate” threat.
Additionally, Professor Elliott stressed a lack of action on global warming is leading to a rise in diseases and drought in key commodities.
During the Food Fraud, Culture and Modern Catering Processes conference, the professor, who founded the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, also suggested that increased price pressure on food suppliers is escalating the risk of food fraud.
“As a country, we need to seriously begin considering how we future-proof the integrity of our food supply in the face of the challenges coming in the next few years. To understand what we are eating, where it comes from and how it was produced are of fundamental importance to regaining trust. To reconnect with our food system should be considered a national imperative,” Professor Elliott said.