UK and Irish authorities have failed to prosecute those responsible for “organised fraud in the meat supply chain” in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, MPs on the House of Commons environment committee have said.
They claim the Food Standards Agency (FSA) should be given greater power in the future to deal with scandals. Various food outlets were found to be misleadingly selling horsemeat as beef at the beginning of 2013.
Committee chair Anne McIntosh said, “We urge the government to reconsider the machinery of government changes it made in 2010 and make the FSA one step removed from the government departments it reports to.”
The committee’s Food Contamination report said that the lack of effective prosecution for those responsible of the misleading food labelling is likely to make consumer more diffident towards processed food.
“The evidence suggests a complex network of companies trading in and mislabelling beef or beef products which is fraudulent and illegal”, McIntosh said.
“We are dismayed at the slow pace of investigations and seek assurances that prosecutions will be mounted where there is evidence of fraud or illegality.”
The report suggests that the FSA should act as an effective regulator of industry, able to carry tests whenever these are needed. A reform of horse passports and an EU-wide database would also be helpful to avoid illegal meat trade, according to the committee.
McIntosh added, “Retailers and meat processors should be more vigilant against the risk of deliberate adulteration. Regular and detailed DNA tests are needed on all meat or meat-based ingredients which form part of a processed or frozen meat product. Consumers need to know that what they buy is what the label says it is.”