Following the Elliott review in 2013-14, the UK Government committed to setting up a Virtual Food Authenticity Network to help bring those involved in food authenticity testing together in a more coordinated way.
Defra issued an invitation to tender and selected LGC as the coordinator for the Network. LGC started work on the project in April 2015 and developed a website for the Network which was piloted with a cross section of stakeholders before being officially launched on 14 July 2015:
The network aims to raise awareness of the range of methods / techniques used to check for mislabelling and food fraud and to ensure that the UK has access to a resilient network of laboratories providing fit for purpose testing to check for food authenticity so consumers can have confidence in the food they buy. Recognising that no one organisation will be equipped with all the necessary expertise in all methods / techniques used, Professor Elliot’s review also proposed the creation of ‘Centres of Excellence’ to cover the different disciplines and techniques involved.
The UK Government’s Authenticity Methods Working Group produced a number of criteria which outlined the type of qualities an organisation offering a particular expertise might be expected to demonstrate to become a ‘Centre of Expertise’ (CoE). There was an expectation that such organisations should be prepared to engage with and offer support to others in their areas of expertise both within the network and more widely if required.
The Government invited organisations working in the authenticity field to consider if they had the expertise, capability and experience expected of a CoE and asked interested parties to complete a self-assessment evidence proforma providing evidence of their capabilities and demonstrating how they fulfil the AMWG criteria for CoEs.
Based on this approach, 14 CoEs were identified in October 2015; The CoE, contact details and a brief summary of their capabilities is given on the CoE page on this site. The self-assessment evidence proforma completed by each CoE can also be downloaded.
The listing of a CoE on the food authenticity network is not an endorsement by Government of an organisation but an acknowledgment that the organisation has a particular expertise in authenticity testing either for a particular technique/ food commodity or authenticity testing more generally. It is intended as a guide for those looking for information about food authenticity testing capability in the UK. As such, if a CoE is selected to perform a particular service for an organisation or individual, then it is the responsibility of the procurer to ensure that the services requested are fit for their purpose. The ‘Criteria for a ‘Fit For Purpose’ Analytical Laboratory’ identified by the AMWG in its response to the Elliot Review may help in the procurement of analytical services.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)