The number of cases reported by police in Britain related to illegal food production has risen by almost a third.
According to data obtained by campaigners, 106 incidents between January and March 2018 are considered fraudulently registered by City of London police.
A further 10 cases are deemed to be non-compliant with the law. There were 43 fraud-related incidents recorded in 2016.
David Bullock, founder of Fight Corporate Food Crime (FCFC), a campaign to increase transparency and challenge food fraud, said: “The holiday market season is upon us, and all the reports we are receiving from our network indicate that we are going to see increasing food production incidents, which is fuelling food contamination and food fraud.
“The Christmas market season is one of the busiest periods of the year for traders, and consumers, and therefore anyone running these outlets is likely to have a tendency to churn out menus that are not necessarily safe to eat. Trading Standards should be able to detect the fraud easily.”
Police are following the lead of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which has been setting up food production policing units. There are 10 units across the UK, with two in England and two in Scotland. In January, the Thames Valley force received a £750,000 funding boost for its food production policing unit to go after rogue traders operating both independently and alongside legitimate traders.
The FSA said that since the introduction of the Food Industry Crime Agency in 2014, it has assisted the National Criminal Intelligence Service in 70 investigations into food fraud. During the same period it has received 51 operational warnings to business operators to reduce the risk of their products being contaminated or falsely labelled.
A former chef, Matt Liby, who trained at Le Gavroche, suffered skin lesions and rotten tooth decay after eating food sold as being made from scratch at a British Christmas market. The health scare prompted the chef-turned-outspoken food writer Matthew Fort to warn last month that the UK Christmas market food market was becoming “a dirty underbelly of illicit commodity capitalism”.