Birmingham looks set to play a key role in tackling food crime, as reported in Elliott Report into the Integrity and Assurance of Food Supply Networks published last Thursday (4th September), and the Elliott Review Birmingham Report.
The city has offered to be the hub of the proposed Food Crime Intelligence Unit, supported by expertise from both Aston University and the University of Birmingham — and with us at the Birmingham Food Council scrutinising and challenging what’s going on.
In late November 2013 just before his interim report came out, Professor Chris Elliott asked me, with my New Optimists hat on, to help him present in his final report a case study of how a major UK city (i.e. Birmingham!) could tackle food crime.
To that end, I consulted widely across the food supply network in the city. Then in April 2014, over 50 people gathered at a facilitated workshop co-hosted by The New Optimists and the Elliott Review team. It was at Aston Villa Football Club — the Prof, I discovered only the day before, is a ‘football nut” (I quote one of the Elliott Review team) . . .
Since that event, much consultation has gone on, both inside the city and between people here, and the Elliott Review team.
Food crime is big business. I’m not talking rogue landlords watering down the booze, or a spot of urban chicken rustling.
I’m talking highly organised international criminals making loadsamoney in a systematic way — with potential serious health consequences. (Think the horsemeat scandal, methanol in cheap vodka, melamine in baby-milk . . . )
The least that happens is that thee and me as consumers are cheated, as with horsegate. Food crime can make us ill, sometimes seriously ill. Or could kill us; over 300,000 infants were affected, 54,000 hospitalised and six died in the Chinese babymilk scandal in 2008, or the 42 people who died of methanol poisoning in the Czech Republic in 2012.
The Prof was interviewed at the Villa workshop: