The report into the horse meat scandal urges retailers not to buy food at lower than the market price for fear it could “impact the integrity of the food industry”.
The Elliott Review said “procurement policies in some food businesses, particularly some of the larger retailers, are a matter of concern”.
It added: “Recent reports in the media show the emergence of a new price war between some of the major retailers, and suppliers are already under pressure to further reduce prices.
“The food industry needs to realise the extent of their exposure should adulteration or substitution occur, both in terms of the potential for the endangerment of consumers, and brand damage and loss of revenue.”
It said that the food industry should ask searching questions about whether deals are too good to be true.
Professor Chris Elliott, director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, was commissioned by Defra and the Department of Health to carry out the review last year after it was discovered that horse meat was being sold as beef in some food products in the UK in supermarkets including Tesco and Iceland.
Elliott said in the report: “I am confident that there is clear commitment from all those who have engaged with my review, but I realise that implementing some of my recommendations will not be easy and will require a culture change.
“The food industry must above all else demonstrate that having a safe, high integrity food system for the UK is their main responsibility and priority.”
The report called for a national food crime unit to be “urgently” set up to protect customers from criminal infiltration of the supply networks and stop a repeat of the horse meat scandal.
The review discovered “investigations and prosecution of food crimes are most often not pursued beyond the basic disruption of the relevant activity”.
It added: “This creates a huge incentive for the criminal to pursue food crime instead of other types of crime with comparable financial return, and risks system-wide proliferation if unchecked.”
Elliott identified “eight pillars of food integrity” that should create a robust system that puts the needs of consumers before all others; adopts a zero tolerance approach to food crime; invests in intelligence gathering and sharing; supports resilient laboratory services that use standardised, validated methodologies; improves the efficiency and quality of audits and more actively investigates and tackles food crime; acknowledges the key role Government has to play in supporting industry; and reinforces the need for strong leadership and effective crisis management.