Families payout £1.17 billion a year as a result of food fraud such as lamb takeaways containing no lamb
Specialist Public Health lawyers have raised concerns after officials warned that some food may not contain what it professes to, and revealed that food fraud costs families as much as £1.17 billion a year, as well as being a risk to lives.
Over the past few years, the National Food Crime Unit has discovered evidence of vodka containing toxic levels of anti-freeze, lamb disguised for cheaper cuts of meat, and shellfish being at risk from sewage contamination.
The Unit also revealed that there are more than 20 organised crime groups involved in food fraud in Britain, along with a 20% rise in sheep rustling over the last five years seeing animals slaughtered in unlicensed premises.
Following the previous horsemeat scandal in 2014, the Food Standards Agency published its first Food Crime Annual Strategic Assessment on Wednesday 23rd March, which has set out the seriousness of the problem with food fraud.
According to the report, British food is generally classified as safe and properly labelled, but it warns that this fraud represents a ‘serious criminal threat to the safety and authenticity of UK food and drink’.
Amandeep Dhillon, a Partner in the Public Health team at Irwin Mitchell, which represents hundreds of victims of illness including those who have contracted serious bacterial infections, such as Salmonella and E. Coli, said:
Expert Opinion"Consumers place their faith in food manufacturers and retailers and expect that the products they are picking off the shelves are suitable for consumption. Studies have shown that all too often products on the shelves can be contaminated and consumers are suffering with the impact this can cause.
“Consumers need to be reassured that everything possible is being done to tackle the issue and to prevent them from being exposed to serious risk. It is also important that there remains sufficient funding to enable bodies such as the FSA to assist the National Food Crime Unit to continue to carry out this very important work.” Amandeep Dhillon - Partner
Tim Annett, a product liability and group actions specialist at Irwin Mitchell, said:
Expert Opinion“It’s a real concern that so many different types of food product have been found to contain potentially dangerous substances. People expect these products to be of good quality and to be safe, especially brand names bought from reputable retailers. Consumers who have been injured or suffered financial losses as a result of food fraud may have a right of action against the seller of the product and potentially the manufacturer as well.
“More needs to be done to tighten regulations and enforce standards to cut out illegal food crime that is costing British families not just financially but also their health.” Tim Annett - Partner