‘Improved intelligence’ needed across food industry

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Professor Pat Troop
Professor Pat Troop

Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) needs to strengthen its major incident plan, an independent investigation into its performance following the horse-meat contamination scandal has found.

Professor Pat Troop has completed her independent review of the agency’s response, which was published on Friday.

Troop’s recommendations include:

  • The need for improved intelligence across the food industry.
  • The need for the FSA to strengthen its major incident plan.
  • Improved clarity of the role of Government departments in large, complex incidents.
  • The need for a review of the FSA’s powers and the use of framework agreements and codes of conduct.

A full written response to Troop’s final report will be published by the FSA next week, before a discussion of the report by the FSA Board at its July 16 meeting.

At the FSA’s open board meeting on June 4, Troop presented her key findings.

Overall, she commended the agency’s handling of the matter, noting that the incident was unusual in both its scale and profile.

Troop spoke to FSA staff, Government departments and ministers, members of the food industry local authorities, and other interested parties.

FSA chief executive Catherine Brown said: “It is striking that there was a large degree of agreement among other Government departments, and among senior staff here, that the role of the FSA was to lead the investigation of this national food incident, regardless of the extent to which there was any food safety risk.

“We do need to formalise that understanding, and embed it in both our own organisation and across Government, so that we are all ready to respond should there be a similar incident in the future.”

Since March, the FSA has been working to establish a better joint infrastructure for sharing, using and analysing intelligence. It has begun work on an improved and extended Major Incident Plan.

Proposals for a comprehensive action plan will go to the board on July 16.

The horse-meat contamination was first detected in Ireland earlier this year, after testing revealed horse-meat in processed beef products.

The scandal rapidly spread across Europe, resulting in the recall of tens of millions of ready-made products labelled as beef.

The incident revealed the complexities of the food chain and its vulnerability to rogue traders.

 

Professor Pat Troop’s report can be read here.

 

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