Hotline launched to tackle Scottish food crime

A Scottish Food Crime Helpline was launched today (25 August 2016) by Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and independent charity Crimestoppers to enable consumers and industry to report anonymously suspicions of food crime. 

The free hotline number – 0800 028 7926 – will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There will also be an option to report concerns via a non-traceable online form.

The initiative will allow FSS’s Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU) to gather intelligence. The FSS and Food Standards Agency estimate cost UK food and drink firms £1.17bn annually.

Information provided will be used to help FSS and other enforcement agencies identify and where necessary, prosecute criminals who are defrauding and potentially endangering consumers.

Food crime is defined as any deliberate manipulation, substitution, mislabelling or instance of fraud in relation to food.

The FSS claims the launch of the free hotline and online form is a key milestone in the development of the SFCIU, which was established in response to the 2013 report from the then minister for public health following the horsemeat scandal.

The unit was launched in October 2015 to improve Scotland’s ability to combat food crime through improved intelligence, investigation resources and collaboration with the police and other enforcement agencies.

Geoff Ogle, chief executive, Food Standards Scotland, 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.”

Aileen Campbell MSP, minister for public health and sport, said: “Scotland is known the world over for the quality of its food and drink. Safeguarding the integrity of our supply chain is essential to ensure consumers have absolute trust in the products they buy and that our reputation as a Land of Food & Drink is protected.

“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.”

Mark Hallas, chief executive of Crimestoppers, said: “We are delighted to be working with FSS to bring our experience to bear on an issue which is having a serious impact on both consumers and industry.

“The free hotline and online form will provide a simple and trusted way for individuals to report any concerns, large or small, and, like the services we provide to other enforcement agencies, will help gather vital intelligence to crack down on food crime.”

Ricky Mason, detective chief superintendent, Police Scotland, said: “We are fully supportive of the launch of the new free hotline. Food crime is a serious issue and a collaborative approach with FSS, other enforcement agencies and the charity Crimestoppers will enable us to identify and deal with offenders as swiftly and effectively as possible.

“By sharing any information they have with us, members of the public and those who work in the sector can help us identify and intercept criminal activity.”

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