A Government-commissioned review following the horse meat scandal has recommended a specialist food crime unit should be set up.

A report by Professor Chris Elliott, director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, called for the unit after being tasked to find ways of improving the safety of UK food supply networks.

Elliott said the food industry should “consider the prevention of food crime a primary objective”, as well as focusing on supplying safe food, the BBC reported.

Elliott said: “Food production is a global industry and we need to ensure that our high standards are maintained across the whole supply chain.

“The horsemeat crisis clearly showed criminal activity in the global food chain and while the next stage of my review will gather more evidence on this, it is right that measures are in place to further protect consumers. The food industry and the government are already striving to achieve this.”

The horse meat scandal emerged in January and retailers including Tesco, Asda, Aldi, Lidl and Iceland were implicated.

Elliott was commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department of Health in May to study the food supply chain.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “It is appalling that anyone was able to defraud the public by passing off horse meat as beef. That is why I commissioned an urgent review into the integrity of our food network.”