Speaking at a Round Table discussion on Food fraud in Brussels Martina Anderson welcomed the proposed establishment of a team from Police, Customs and Prosecution Services to combat criminal activity in the Food Processing industry.
Martina Anderson said:
“During the recent Horsemeat Scandal in one incident alone, involving a Dutch trader, 50,000 tonnes of food was declared unfit for human consumption and seized by authorities.
“I welcome the commitment by the Commission to now prioritise the fight against food fraud. Included in the May 6th proposals by the EU Commission’s Directorate General for Food and Consumers – DG Sanco, is the recommendation that Member States establish Food Fraud Squads that would allow for ‘unannounced inspections’ to food processors, factories and so on to combat Food Fraud.
“I believe that the Food Fraud Squads should incorporate Police, Customs and Prosecution Services backed up by the necessary resources to be effective.
“It is also proposed that if a company or an individual is caught committing food fraud, the Member State should impose tough fines which would at least equal the amount of potential profit that would have resulted from the fraud.
“As these measures are only at the proposal stage and have to be agreed by Member States and the European Parliament I will be following the proceedings with interest as they make their way through the parliament.
“I have yet to be convinced that fines equal to the amount of profit to be made from fraudulent activity will be entirely dissuasive. I personally believe that anyone falsifying ingredients in food should face fines in multiples of projected profits or prison depending on the scale of the operation.
“As the Danish Food Fraud team at the Round Table said, ‘fines must be punitive and should cost the fraudsters rather than being a ‘neutral’ expense’.
“In two operations carried out by EUROPOL and INTERPOL the first one involving eleven Member States and the second nineteen, 150 tonnes of counterfeit food and 100 tonnes of substandard food were seized.
“As the Representative from EUROPOL stated – food fraud is not the same as buying fake goods such as a Louis Vuitton bag! In Food Fraud the customer is unaware that they are not getting what it says on the label.
“A feasibility study on extending mandatory country of origin labelling to all types of meat used as an ingredient in food production, including pre-packed and processed meals is to be brought forward by the Commission this autumn. I will continue to advocate Country of Origin Labelling, which respects international agreements such as the Good Friday Agreement to permit foods produced in the North of Ireland to be labelled ‘Irish’ if the producers so wish. “