FSA requests additional investigatory powers for NFCU

FSA requests additional investigatory powers for NFCU

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has launched a new consultation on proposed additional investigatory powers for the National Food Crime Unit (NFCU).

The request, if granted, would give the FSA more powers to investigate food crime.

The consultation seeks opinion from the public, public health professionals and food sector partners, asking for views on the NFCU’s access to additional powers that would enable NFCU officers to assist with searches and lawfully be on the premises following an arrest by the police.

According to the FSA, these legal powers are “critical” if they are to investigate food crime effectively, allowing the NFCU to rely less on the support of partners such as the local authorities and the police.

If the NFCU are granted the powers the FSA are seeking, a police presence will still be required to make arrests, but the police presence would be much smaller. This is a more sustainable long-term solution, strengthening the NFCU’s ability to tackle food fraud, according to the FSA.

A ‘vital tool’

Acting Head of the NFCU, Andrew Quinn, said: “We’ve launched this consultation as we want to protect consumers and businesses from food fraud more effectively. This additional power of search and entry would be a vital tool to make sure that investigations can be progressed more directly, while also freeing up local police services so their vital resources can be diverted to other priorities.  

“At the same time any use of these powers of entry and search will be restrained, focusing on effective regulation to prevent and detect food crime, and subject to robust controls and external scrutiny. We remain committed to using any enhanced powers in a proportionate way that keeps the public safe, with strengthened safeguards and oversight arrangements to guard against their abuse. We encourage everyone who wants to have their say to respond so that they can inform our work in the future.” 

This follows news in March of an investigation by Farmers Weekly which revealed that a UK food manufacturer had been passing off large quantities of foreign pork as British – sometimes in excess of tens of thousands of tonnes a week. At the time, the FSA made an unannounced visit to a premises on the basis of alleged food fraud, where three people were arrested. Emily Miles, CEO of the FSA, commented on the investigation here.

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