Horsemeat crisis one year on

To keep ahead of tackling the emerging issue of food crime, many food companies have been reviewing the initial recommendations of the Government’s independent review. The interim report by Professor Elliott, reviewing the integrity and assurance of food supply networks, proposes a zero tolerance to food fraud. The system based approach recommended includes a number of specific considerations for those involved with analysis, including: sampling and surveillance programmes, use of standardised validated methods, and the sustainability of the public sector laboratories. It highlights the need to improve the application of existing resources and intelligence gathering through a shared investment between Government and industry.

Bio-Check (UK) already provides validated test kit methods to both industry and public analysts.  It is active in various bodies (e.g. CEN, AOAC) to ensure adherence to the latest best practice in this area though there is more work to be done to improve both the recognition and validation of methods. Equally, sampling should not be forgotten and should be sufficient that the analytical method used provides a representative estimate of the true value of the original (remembering that sampling errors can contribute significantly to analytical errors).

Official samplesThe most recent Food Standards Agency (FSA) annual report on UK local authority (LA) food law enforcement notes a continuation of the decline in LA sampling (up until March 2013). Official food samples taken by LAs in 2012/2013 were 73,321 which represented a 6.8% reduction on the previous year. In a statement on the Elliott report the FSA reported it had increased its funding to £2m to local authorities to support their own testing programmes, this is to be divided up amongst >395 LAs. Of the 2012/2013 official food samples 9,942 (11%) were analysed for labelling and presentation and during the horsemeat crisis LAs analysed 514 meat product samples. Todate, a total of 32,404 results have been reported by the FSA to have been submitted by the Food Industry in response to their investigation of the crisis. Intelligence gathering and sharing is critical in tackling the global problem of food crime, and to understanding the extent of the problem.

Bio-Check is playing its part by catering for laboratory needs (ELISA and PCR) and for sampling and testing for onsite control (flow through technology).

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