Horsemeat: government appoints expert to lead independent review

A food safety specialist who became the UK’s leading expert on the horsemeat scandal has been asked to chair an independent review into the incident, food minister Owen Paterson has announced.

In a written ministerial statement today (4 June), Paterson said Profesor Chris Elliot, of Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, had been asked to lead the review and had accepted, subject to “necessary formalities” being concluded.

Elliot has studied the impacts of complex supply chains and competitive industry on food integrity and safety for years, and appeared widely in the media after the horsemeat scandal erupted in January 2013. He is director of the Institute of Global Food Security, which was launched in March in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

Paterson said Elliot’s review would focus on issues affecting consumer confidence in the authenticity of food products and any systematic failures in food supply chain networks that might compromise food integrity. He added that Elliot would be expected to make recommnediations on how to improve current systems and consumer confidence.

“We have also asked Professor Elliott to provide emerging findings on the European aspects of the review, so that we can continue to influence action at a European level and effectively engage in the European Union process,” he said.

The review will begin shortly and is expected to take nine to 12 months to complete, with a final report published by spring 2014.

“The reviewer will, in due course, issue a call for evidence seeking information and views on the integrity of the food supply network, any vulnerabilities and how assurances might be strengthened to support consumer confidence,” stated Paterson.

Paterson is expected to make an announcement on the review in the House of Commons today. Farming Minister David Heath was due to give evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee investigation into the horsemeat scandal on Wednesday (4 June), but EFRA announced today that the session has been postponed.

Meanwhile Pat Troop, who was asked to review the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) response to the horsemeat incident, is due to outline some of her findings at the FSA Board meeting this afternoon. Her final report is due at the end of June.

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