A Scottish MSP has called for tougher labelling legislation after a freedom of information request found almost one-in-five failed food standards tests in the country were down to mislabelling.
Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles argued that there was a there was a “strong case for more robust regulation”, adding that food firms’ responsibilities needed to be looked at “in light of recent tragic cases”.
Figures from 24 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities showed that mislabelling accounted for 1,741 (19%) of the 9,148 failed tests since 2013. There were 90,578 tests in total over the five-year period.
The figures also showed dramatic disparities in testing figures across Scotland, according to Rumbles.
The call followed last September’s inquest into the death of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died in 2016 from anaphylaxis caused by sesame contained within a Pret A Manager baguette. The coroner found Pret’s labelling to be “inadequate”.
Second Pret-linked death
It subsequently emerged that a second Pret customer, 42-year-old Celia Marsh, died in 2017 after eating a rainbow flatbread believed to have been contaminated with milk protein. Pret is in dispute with supplier CoYo as to the cause, and an inquest has yet to be held.
Environment secretary Michael Gove has voiced his support for changes to allergen labelling rules, suggesting that a law change could happen in early 2019.
Rumbles said the food sampling figures were an insight into the services that Scottish local authorities provided.
“They are doing excellent work to make sure that the public are kept safe and informed amid a workload that is as large as ever,” he added. “Yet, under Nicola Sturgeon the amount of money given to them by central government has fallen by 8%.”
When people settle down for a meal or pick up some food on the go, they want to know that what they are eating is safe and what it purported to be, Rumbles claimed.
‘Recent tragic cases’
“Government particularly needs to look at companies’ responsibilities in relation to food labelling in light of recent tragic cases. Given the seriousness of some people’s allergies, this can’t be taken too seriously and there is a strong case for more robust regulation.
“This is not the glamorous end of governing, but it is essential.”
Food Standards Scotland (FSS) said sampling programmes carried out by local authority enforcement officers and public analyst laboratories played a key role in protecting public health by verifying the safety and standards of foods placed on the market.
“Consumers, rightly, expect that the food they buy is what it says it is on the label,” said Dr Jacqui McElhiney, head of food protection science and surveillance at FSS.
“Anyone who has suspicions or knowledge about food fraud or food crime can also report them on the free and confidential Scottish Food Crime Hotline on 0800 028 7926 or by using the online form at the FSS website.”
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