I’m often asked whether my job, leading the United Kingdom (UK)’s fight against serious criminality in food supply chains, has made me an anxious consumer. I always sense that my response disappoints. Because the truth is, it really hasn’t.
Sure, I try to make the right food choices when shopping, and, yes, I even occasionally glance at ingredients and nutritional information on the packaging. Counterintuitively, in the eyes of some, my experience since 2015 as Head of Food Crime at the National Food Crime Unit of the Food Standards Agency in London, has actually increased my confidence in the integrity of the food I eat.
The overwhelming majority of food and drink produced and sold in the UK and the USA is safe and what it says it is.
So I shop and dine with confidence because what I’ve seen to date leads me to believe that food production, manufacture and retail form an industry populated by honest and well-intentioned people who care about bringing high quality and interesting things to our plates. Although not every country is quite so fortunate, the overwhelming majority of food and drink produced and sold in the UK and indeed in the United States is safe and what it says it is.
The second question new acquaintances often ask concerns, what I call, the ‘Eww Factor.’ Quite understandably, people have a slightly salacious desire to know the most revolting or bizarre substance I’ve found food to be adulterated with. Again, my answer seldom lives up to the expectations of the questioner. To define food crime by its Eww Factor is to fundamentally misunderstand the way fraudsters operate.