They’re the superheroes we’ve been waiting for and they’ve promised to get tough on food fraud. They are the National Food Crime Unit!
While this culinary crime fighting squad has been around for a while, it’s had enough and there’s no more Mr Nice Guy.
Only a few companies are prosecuted every year for food fraud, where they swap in cheaper ingredients to lower costs, but from now on, they’ll be made to pay.
Everyone remembers the horsemeat scandal of 2013, but what about coffee that’s been labelled as premium when it’s mixed with lower quality beans or olive oil that’s not quite as extra virgin as it claims?
It turns out there’s loads of things that fraudsters are trying to sneak past us. An EU Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety list says fish, grains and even milk are often mislabelled.
And don’t get us started on organic. There are cases when produce is being passed off as higher welfare and lower pesticide when it’s not grown in line with these specific requirements.
For example, a simple swap from pine nuts in pesto to cheaper peanuts may seem fairly straightforward, but around one in 50 children in the UK have a peanut allergy.
Luckily, Darren Davis, the new chief of the National Food Crime Unit, is determined to do something about it.
He told BBC 5 live’s Wake Up To Money programme: “This is crime. We will be working with colleagues in different law enforcement sectors and local authorities initially to raid business premises and other locations where they are engaging in the most serious types of food crime.”
Sorting the problem out won’t be easy, because food supply chains have become so complicated that jar of pesto can easily have had 30 or 40 companies involved in its production and distribution, but it’s got to be done.
There’s so many issues to do with food fraud, like suppliers getting paid more for substandard ingredients, unfair competition and reputational damage, but at the end of the day, as consumers, the biggest thing for us is that we want to know what we’re eating.
So, all power to the Food Crime Unit superheroes. Go out and defend clear labelling, organic fruit and premium coffee so we know exactly what we’re putting on the table for ourselves and our families.