Professor Chris Elliott, an academic heading the UK government’s independent review of last year’s horse meat scandal, says a reported 40 percent cut in the country’s Trading Standards Service would hinder future food safety enforcement efforts. He says the “integrity of the food supply chain” was endangered by the budget cuts, which were revealed on the UK’s Channel 4 Dispatches Programme.
The cuts could translate into a force of only 1,900 officers, compared to 3,000 that worked for the service in 2009. The last three years have also seen the number of public analysis laboratories for food testing drop from 15 to 11.
Andy Foster of the Trading Standards Service says the cuts increase the risk of food fraud like last year’s horse meat scandal. “You take money out of sampling, you take money out of inspection, you take money out of the consumer protection system, and you will get increased levels of fraudulent activity,” he says. “And you make the consumer protection regime that’s designed to deal with it much more impotent—and that’s a big concern.”