The National Food Crime Unit set up two years ago by the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom is about to get its first outside review. Set up in 2014, the National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) was established at the behest of professor Chis Elliott’s independent review of the integrity and assurance of food supply networks. Elliott recommended the NFCU be phased in with an initial emphasis on evidence gathering and business case development. The review that is now beginning is to decide if the unit’s work should be expanded to investigate cases and pursue prosecutions. FSAfoodcrimeunit_406x250While the NFCU was set up after the European horse meat scandal, FSA makes a distinction between such “food fraud” and “food crime.”  The agency says “food fraud” involves “a dishonest act or omission, relating to the production or supply of food, which is intended for personal gain or to cause loss to another party.” “Food crime” in the UK involves “dishonesty relating to the production or supply of food, that is either complex or likely to be seriously detrimental to consumers, businesses or the overall public interest.” FSA says “food fraud” becomes “food crime” when the “scale and potential impact” becomes serious. “This might mean that criminal activity has cross-regional, national or international search, that there is significant risk to public safety, or that there is a substantial financial loss to consumers or businesses,” according to the agency. During its two years of existence, the NFCU has been soliciting confidential reports from people in UK’s food industry. NFCU has put out the world that it wants to know about food and beverages, which “contain things which it shouldn’t; methods used in your workplace for producing, processing, storing, labeling or transporting food that do not seem right;” and “that an item of food or drink says it is of certain quality or from a specific place or region, but does not appear to be.” It has also targeted DNP, an industrial chemical being sold in the UK as a “fat burner.” Sale of DNP for human consumption is illegal in the UK. The steering group to review NFCU will include David Kenworthy, chair of the UK Anti Doping agency; Richard Lloyd, former executive director of the consumer group known as Which?; and Paul Willgoss, food technology director at the international retailer Marks and Spencer. Kenworthy is also the former chief constable of the North Yorkshire Police. “I am delighted that David, Richard, and Paul will be bringing their expertise to this review, building on the insight we have gathered from Phone One of the NFCU,” said Heather Hancock, who chairs the FSA board of directors. “We are at the critical stage in deciding what structures, people, skills and resources are needed to achieve specific goals for tackling food crime, and giving the public the protection they expect. “I know that all three review members will provide rigor, challenge and independence in the process and we look forward to receiving their conclusions later this year. The review team has been asked to produce a draft report for discussion at the FSA board meeting in mid-November.” The review is being managed by Rod Ainsworth, FSA’s director of legal and regulatory strategy. While criminal prosecutions where food safety is involved have long occurred in the United States, stepped up prosecutions have occurred since 2010 under the supervision of the Department of Justice’s consumer unit and local district attorneys. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)