THE FIRST unit dedicated to a multi-agency approach to combating illegal meat scams has been launched in Wales.

The Welsh Food Fraud Co-ordinating Unit is being financed by the Food Standards Agency through the Welsh Assembly.

Though based at Ceredigion Council‘s offices at Aberaeron it will work with all 23 Welsh local authorities.

“It is a resource to assist the endeavours of enforcement officers engaged in the stamping out of food fraud in Wales,” said Robert Phillips, the unit‘s manager.

It aimed to share intelligence between the various agencies that were tacking the problem, especially the sale of unfit meat, and to establish joint working arrangements.

Previous inquiries into illegal meat fraud had identified the importance of building strong communication channels to counter the activities of well-organised and sophisticated criminal gangs.

“The unit is an exciting and innovative response to an emerging but fast growing area of criminality,” Mr Phillips claimed. 

“The initiative once again demonstrates how flexible and creative solutions can be developed by the various tiers of government in Wales.”

The new set-up‘s remit included all activities that posed serious risks to public health, especially the unlawful slaughter of animals in unlicensed premises, the “cleaning up” and reintroduction of condemned meat into the food chain, and bush meat imports.

At the unit‘s launch in Cardiff, Peredur Hughes, president of NFU Cymru, said he wanted zero tolerance of unscrupulous trading practices.

His members produced safe, high quality meat using welfare friendly and environmentally sustainable methods.

He welcomed the creation of a body that could co-ordinate the battle against those whose activities jeopardised the reputation of Welsh food.