The Food Standards Agency (FSA) board has been told that the cost of setting up a “full-blown” Food Crime Unit (FCU), at up to a potential £36m, is money which doesn’t currently exist within the organisation’s budget.
Board members, meeting in Belfast recently, were reminded that the FSA’s funding would be £22m lower in 2015/16 than it was when the horsegate scandal began at the beginning of 2013.
While pledging that the new FCU, as outlined in the recently published Elliott report, would be operational by the end of December this year, FSA Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Rhodes, made it clear that there were significant funding issues to be addressed going forward.
He told the meeting that a “full blown” unit, similar to that operated by FSA’s Dutch equivalent, NVWA, would cost £36m to set up and run, adding that, as such, the new development was taking the agency into a “challenging area” in financial terms.
Having already scheduled the Elliott report for full discussion at their board meeting in November, FSA officials agreed that FCU funding, including any potential impact of the rest of the agency’s programme, should also be debated at that meeting.
For the moment, however, it was reported that 40 staff members have already been assigned to FCU duties with the recruitment process for a further 20 people having begun.