Saturday 17 February 2018

Crackdown targets fake honey and fish scams


Aideen Sheehan Consumer Correspondent

FAKE honey and fish are set to come under the microscope as health authorities across Europe crack down on organised food fraud.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) is also carrying out a fresh round of DNA tests on beef as part of an EU-wide follow-up to last year’s horsemeat scandal.

And FSAI chief executive Prof Alan Reilly told the Irish Independent that honey and fish would also be systematically surveyed in Ireland as part of new EU Food Fraud network attempts to tackle widespread organised crime in the European food chain.

Honey from China has previously been mislabelled and passed off as Irish; and there have also been cases of “artificial honey” that is just sugar syrup going on sale in Europe, he said.

Meanwhile, fish is also being targeted in Ireland and throughout Europe because of widespread substitution of more expensive fish like cod with cheaper species.

Prof Reilly said that the horsemeat scandal first uncovered in Ireland in early 2013 had been a “massive wake-up call for the food industry”.

Pan-European checks last year had found 4.6pc of beef products contained horsemeat and the current checks being carried out throughout the EU would determine if the situation had improved following attempts to stamp out adulteration.

Prof Reilly said food fraud was a huge issue as there was so much money to be made and so many ways to hoodwink consumers.

“There are endless possibilities for fraud and the way to tackle that is to combine intelligence with our European partners in this Food Fraud Network,” he said.

However, extra staff were badly needed to ensure the FSAI could play its part in rooting out food crime, he said. It is in talks with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Health in a bid to recruit key expertise.

The FSAI lost 15 staff out of 87 a few years ago, and these were highly specialised technical posts providing the kind of expertise needed to tackle sophisticated fraud, he said.

Counterfeit and smuggled alcohol seized by customs officers last year almost doubled, new figures from the Revenue Commissioners show. Officers made 507 seizures of 55,755 litres of alcohol in 2013 with a value of €1.5m, and this was up from 33,059 litres with a value of €0.7m in 2012.

Irish Independent

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