New Food Crime Unit targets wine fraud

A new Food Crime Unit is setting itself against rising levels of wine fraud, as some experts claim drinks companies aren’t doing enough to help prevent crime.

The cost of wine fraud is said to add 28p to the price of each bottle sold in the UK (Photo: WIki)

The cost of wine fraud is said to add 28p to the price of each bottle sold in the UK (Photo: WIki)

Launching next month, the investigative arm of the UK Food Standards Authority is gearing up to tackle wine fraud that is reportedly costing the country’s drinks industry £11.2 billion per year – but drinks companies need to do more, it has been claimed.

The Independent reports on a series of industry experts who have called for increased input by drinks producers in preventing fraud, which, according to the Portsmouth’s Centre for Counter Fraud Studies, adds an average of 28p to each bottle of wine sold in the UK.

The Food Crime Unit, initially set-up in the wake of last year’s horse-meat scandal, now comes at a time of growing wine fraud in which high levels of so-called “cornershop wine” is imported illegally or is fake.

The paper quotes an unnamed food safety expert who spoke out last week claiming that wine fraud had been “grossly underestimated”. Speaking to the Food Manufacture website, they said: “The industry needs to do more and work closely with the Government to have a positive effect on [wine fraud].”

William Boyack, spokesman for the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), welcomed the FCA’s focus on wine fraud. While saying that “there are very good safeguards in place and I’ve seen no instances of counterfeits being sold in supermarkets,” he warned, “the problem is far more likely in independent stores or restaurants which scammers are more likely to target.”

In May, the drinks business reported on the release of police information that suggested as many as one-in-five bottles sold in independent shops in the UK could be fake.

And recently, a spate of wine scams, thefts, and adulterations have hit the headlines, showing that the trend is picking up pace.

Professor Chris Elliott of Queen’s University Belfast is credited with suggesting the idea of a national food crime authority in his report after the horse-meat scandal.

He said British consumers had one of the safest food systems in the world, but he believed his suggestions would make it even more difficult for fraud to occur.

“I believe the creation of the national food crime prevention framework will ensure measures are put in place to further help protect consumers from any food fraud incidents in the future,” he said.

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