Food Standards Scotland urges consumers to lookout for ‘tell-tale’ signs of food crime during COVID-19 lockdown

Food Standards Scotland is making consumers in Scotland aware that there may be an increased risk of food crime during the COVID-19 outbreak.

While most of Scotland’s food industry remains legitimate and has adapted well to the current circumstances, there are a small minority of individuals willing to cut corners and take advantage of the pandemic.

The Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU) is aware that COVID-19 circumstances has created a factor or motivation in recent reports of food crime.

The SFCIU are now urging consumers to be aware of three key ‘tell-tale’ signs which can help avoid falling victim to food fraudsters looking to exploit the lockdown. These include:

  1. The price seems too good to be true 

If you’ve been offered a product(s) from the back of a van or outside your home for a fraction of the usual price you would pay at your local butcher, fishmonger or supermarket, the seller may be trying to deceive you.

  1. Unregistered food businesses on social media / online

There has been an increase in the number of food businesses operating from home and many advertise their delivery services online and through social media platforms. Caterers, like all food businesses, must register with their local authority before they start trading. If you’re buying food from unregistered food business it might not have been processed and prepared under the necessary hygiene conditions required to supply safe food.

  1. Fake alcohol, ‘disguised’ as well-known legal brands

It is not just food products which can be targeted. Look out for the sale of fake or illegally produced alcohol that is made in unlicensed distilleries or people’s homes. These drinks are often packaged to look like well-known brands, and if the price is alarmingly cheap, it might not be the product it claims it is.

Ron McNaughton, Head of the SFCIU, said:

“With some disruption to the usual supply chains, and more people staying at home more often due to lockdown, there has been opportunities for unscrupulous traders and individuals to cut corners and sell direct to individuals and retailers.

“This could include for example meat and fish products that have not been properly processed through the supply chain, or cheap fake alcohol.

“Food crime is not only illegal and deceptive, but potentially harmful to health so we are urging consumers not to be tempted by offers that seem too good to be true - because they most likely will be.”

The SFCIU continues to work in partnership with industry, local authorities, Police Scotland, the Food Standards Agency and others to protect consumers and our renowned food and drink reputation.

Ron added:

“Our latest consumer survey shows only 8% of consumers in Scotland have a good understanding of food crime.

“Remember - criminal activities potentially put consumers and industry at risk, so if

you have any knowledge or suspicion of food crime, please call our free hotline which is run in partnership with Crimestoppers on 0800 028 7926.”