The official report into the causes of the horsemeat scandal has been shelved until at least the autumn, prompting criticism that the government is not doing enough on food safety.
The inquiry by Chris Elliott, professor of food safety at Queen’s University Belfast, was announced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 16 months ago and was to have been completed by the spring. It is expected to highlight the impact of spending cuts on frontline enforcement and inspection in the food industry.
But sources have told the Guardian that its publication has been blocked amid government concerns that the public would be frightened by the idea that criminals were still able to interfere with their food.
Elliott said in December that the food sector had become a “soft touch” for criminals who knew there was little risk of detection or serious penalty and that the response of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) was insufficiently robust. He has also called for a new police force to combat food crime, saying the risks were so great that a dedicated unit staffed by senior police detectives was needed.