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APPG In this feature l food security l resourcing l politics On the edge Food crime, and the pressure of funding cuts being experienced by the Food Standards Agency and trading standards, dominated discussions at the latest All-Party Parliamentary Group Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards AGM, says Suzanne Kuyser T his important annual meeting ensures that we retain our official presence in parliament, and affords us the opportunity to speak to members of both houses and all parties within their own place of business. It was our last annual general meeting (AGM) before the general election, and the last time it will be hosted by both Stephen Lloyd MP and Austin Mitchell MP. By the next one, we may have a very different composition in the House, and to the all party parliamentary group (APPG). With Austin Mitchell retiring after years of sterling support to trading standards and his constituents and, unfortunately, no guarantee that Stephen Lloyd who has brought his energy to the APPG will still be in parliament next year, we must be ready for change. We are, therefore, preparing for some hard work throughout the postelection months, to ensure the APPG has as much cross-party support as possible, so we can continue to highlight issues for the life of the new parliament. Food crime After the business of the AGM, the discussion topic was food crime, under the advertised title of: Are you sure thats beef you are eating? As well as representatives from both Houses, we were joined by speakers Darren Shirley, campaign manager, Which?; Tendy Lindsay, senior trading standards officer, Haringey Council; and Huw Irranca-Davies, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Guy Pratt, Ron Gainsford our new APPG secretary and vice-president Robert Wright, were also in attendance and contributed to the points made to thegroup. Tendy, who until recently was seconded to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), spoke first on the large scale of the problem, noting that lack of resources means: trading standards services are not investigating food fraud as much as they could be; the scale and impact of the problem is underestimated; and some producers are processing meat in inappropriate locations, including clothing warehouses. Scale of criminality Pratt added that while police generally have a good understanding of organised crime gangs in their area, they have no estimate of the scale of criminality in which they are involved. Shirley stressed the huge impact on public confidence after the horsemeat revelations, with a third of people not confident that food is correctly labelled. In the light of a statement read to the group from Christopher Elliott, professor of food safety and director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queens University Belfast, the shadow minister highlighted the need to consider both whether our intelligence gathering and laboratory services are resilient, and who should pay for this. Concerned that the trading standards and FSA system will collapse under the pressure of reduced funding, with the growing length and complexity of supply chains compounding the issue, Irranca-Davies concluded with a plea for the issue not to be forgotten and allowed to relapse, after Elliotts investigation finished. He advocated an independent body capable ofraising concerns to ministers. The group agreed that Austin and Stephen would write to Defra about the groups concerns about the number of trading standards officers available to support the work of theFSA. Credits Published Suzanne Kuyser is TSI service director 25 November, 2014 To share this page, click on in the toolbar (communications and policy). Images: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock TS TODAY "