The scale of food fraud is alarming, and has the potential to get worse unless efforts are made to strengthen cooperation between regulators and police forces to tackle the crime of food fraud, Mairead McGuinness MEP and first Vice-President of the European Parliament said today (Friday).
This cooperation is key to the effectiveness of new food regulations to take effect in 2019, she said.
Delivering the keynote address at the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and Safefood conference at Dublin Castle entitled, Safeguarding the Food Chain – Protecting Authenticity and Integrity, she said the romantic notion of the hayfield of the past and the farmer at the gate is far removed from the reality of today’s intensive agriculture.
“The food supply chain of today is more complicated and more global, with many opportunities for fraudsters to make a killing by mislabelling, using cheaper and sub-standard ingredients and worse still, placing unsafe food on the market – all in the interests of a quick buck.”
She said this fraud rip off of consumers is totally unacceptable but food fraud is also an ancient activity and one that has evolved to match the complexities of today’s food chain. “Therefore, we need systems that are more rigorous to close gaps which allow food fraud to occur but better still we need risk assessments to target areas where fraud is more likely to occur and stop the fraudsters in their tracks.”
Fraudsters must be penalised sufficiently – it should not be worth the risk. “And there is a need to ensure that regulation is enforced. Today that is not the case,” she said.
Ms McGuinness said Brexit poses a real challenge around food authenticity, not just on the island of Ireland but between the EU and the UK. “We need the UK to stay within the EU food regulatory system. If there is a divergence then food fraud could escalate and standards drop.”
At policy level she said there are many competing interests and politicians need to know the science to make informed political decisions.