New Scottish hotline to tackle £1.2bn food crime problem

Minced meat Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Food crime is the deliberate manipulation, substitution, mislabelling or fraud in relation to food

A hotline is being launched to help combat the UK's £1.2bn food crime problem in the wake of the horse meat scandal.

Food crime is the deliberate manipulation, substitution, mislabelling or fraud in relation to food.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and Crimestoppers have created the free Scottish Food Crime Hotline.

People will be able to call in their suspicions anonymously.

The new service will aid the FSS's Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit, established following the 2013 discovery that horse meat was being passed off as beef in frozen foods.

The unit gathers intelligence, along with other agencies, to target food fraudsters who cost the UK food and drink industry an estimated £1.17bn annually.

Image copyright Other
Image caption Officers from Interpol have targeted criminal gangs involved in food crime

Members of the public will also be able to report concerns using a non-traceable online form.

Geoff Ogle, FSS chief executive, said: "Consumers have a right to know that the food they are buying and eating is both safe and authentic. Food crime is damaging for the public and the industry, eroding trust and value.

"The launch of the free Scottish Food Crime Hotline is one of a number of steps FSS is taking to address the problem in Scotland.

"We hope it will raise awareness of the issue of food crime and give consumers a trusted point of contact to report concerns in complete anonymity.

"The intelligence we receive will be invaluable in advancing our work with Police Scotland and other agencies to hold to account those who put consumer safety at risk for financial gain."

Public health minister Aileen Campbell said: "Scotland is known the world over for the quality of its food and drink.

"This initiative is a practical and powerful way to tackle the problem of food crime. I would encourage both consumers and industry to make use of the hotline or online reporting form to anonymously share any concerns and help us stamp out fraudulent practices."

Director of policy and campaigns at the consumer group Which? Alex Neill said its research found food fraud ranging from fish and chip shops substituting whiting for haddock, to takeaways serving lamb dishes without any lamb.

She said: "The horsemeat scandal uncovered shocking failings with the authenticity of the food reaching our plates. We welcome the launch of this new food crime hotline which should help FSS gather intelligence about fraudulent practices and allow them to tackle these crimes head on so people can be more confident in the food they eat."

The new free hotline number - 0800 028 7926 - will be operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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