FSA warns over food fraudsters Published: 26 June, 2008
THE Food Standards Agency and police are warning food companies to be on the alert to a fraud that may have affected a number of food businesses across the country. The fraud, which involves identity theft, could result in unsafe food being offered for sale.
The fraudsters are alleged to have targeted small legitimate wholesale food businesses that supply meat, seafood and fruit and vegetables. The alleged offenders work by acquiring authentic letter heads of the legitimate company and changing the telephone, email and fax details. They then contact a genuine wholesaler/importer and place a food order with them. This business, after completing credit checks, agrees to supply the food; however, before the delivery is made, the driver is contacted and the location switched usually to the roadside or a car park. The fraudsters then make off with the goods and attempt to sell them on elsewhere.
West Yorkshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit is leading the investigation into the fraud, which has affected a number of businesses in West Yorkshire as well as other firms across the country.
Detective Sergeant Peter McBay, of West Yorkshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “This fraudulent activity has cost a number of legitimate food companies many thousands of pounds and has also raised questions about the safety of the food that is stolen from the delivery vehicles. Some of the food has cropped up for sale in locations around the country but we do not know how it has been stored in the meantime.
“We would urge all food businesses to be on the lookout for this sort of fraud and urge them to:
* always check who you are doing business with
* as well as doing credit checks, make a call to the business too
* get your delivery drivers to ring if they are asked to make changes to their schedule
* if you are suspicious at any stage call your local police.”
Officers have arrested seven men, aged between 19 and 44, from Dewsbury, Bradford, Wakefield and Brighton, on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering. They have all been released on police bail pending further enquiries.
Colin Houston, Deputy Head of Enforcement Support Division at the FSA, said: This alleged scam could be a matter of concern for consumers. If food is not stored or handled correctly it can become a breeding ground for germs and eating it could cause food poisoning.
“We would urge people to be on the lookout for food that might not appear to be fresh and/or is being sold very cheap. Remember if the offer looks too good to be true, it probably has a hidden catch. In this case it could be the safety of the produce. If you see anything that makes you concerned you should contact your local authority.”