Members will have seen several reports in the media relating to the National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) visiting a premises linked to a criminal investigation into “alleged food fraud” of pre-packed sliced meats and deli items.
The NFCU have now provided the BFFF with the following update into their investigations, codenamed ‘Operation Hawk’:
As has been reported in the media, the NFCU has an ongoing investigation, Operation Hawk, looking into the alleged misrepresentation of pre-packed sliced meats and deli items supplied to a UK retailer as British when they were sourced from South America and Europe.
You may also have noted media reports on the alleged identity of the retailer and supplier but our decision not to confirm or deny any of this speculation remains unaffected. We have taken this position so as not to jeopardise future criminal proceedings and to protect all parties involved, as these are alleged offences at this stage. As the lead investigating authority, releasing the names of victims or suspects can risk the right to a fair trial by directly or indirectly inferring guilt before criminal proceedings can occur.
Operation Hawk is an extensive criminal investigation into an incident of food fraud, currently we do not believe there are any food safety concerns. The retailer was notified on the same day that we took action against the food business suspected of the fraud in September 2021. The retailer immediately removed all affected products from their shelves and continues to work closely and cooperatively with the NFCU investigation to progress the case against the supplier.
Our investigations team have seized over 1 million documents as part of the investigation and continue to review them. As with any ongoing investigation, information can emerge that leads to new lines of enquiry being generated. Should further industry partners be identified as being involved, we will of course approach them as necessary. Similarly, if a food safety issue was identified we would follow our well-established FSA processes to alert businesses.
The NFCU takes allegations of food fraud very seriously and will investigate such allegations robustly and diligently. To do this effectively, it is not always possible to share information with industry partners as we need to ensure that both the victim and the suspects are treated fairly, allow for evidence and the facts to be gathered and for an unprejudiced investigation to take place. We recognise the frustration this may cause, but we stand firm in our rationale to protect the identify of those involved throughout.
Our advice to industry is to ensure they have the necessary due diligence processes in place, as well as a robust audit and sampling regime. The NFCU’s Prevention team have developed a free and easily accessible online tool, as a well as an indepth Fraud Resilience Assessment for businesses to use to check their current processes.
We remain committed to working with industry partners and will share information where we can, for partners to check their supply chains. We ask everyone to continue to remain vigilant and to reach out to our Prevention team if you want to understand what more you could do, or simply sense check what you are currently doing.
Should members wish to contact the NFCU Prevention Team then they can do so directly by emailing NFCU.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The BFFF would also be interested in hearing from you on this subject – if you have any concerns or wish to discuss or comment on the above then please feel free to contact email@example.com