Stephen Jardine: Food crime didn’t pay in 2013

Butchers saw an upswing in business after the horsemeat scandal hit larger vendors. Picture: Robert Perry
Butchers saw an upswing in business after the horsemeat scandal hit larger vendors. Picture: Robert Perry
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AS THE year draws to a close, it’s time for our annual food and drink review of the year.

Twelve months ago, it was a tale of restaurant closures and the struggle to survive in a recession.

One year on, things look brighter for many food and drink businesses but 2013 wasn’t without its challenges.

The big story of the year was the horsemeat scandal which broke in January and seriously dented public confidence in how some of our supermarkets do business.

A government-commissioned review this month reported and concluded there was “criminal activity in the global food chain” and recommended a specialist UK crime unit should be set up to deal with it in future.

Major retailers have also tightened their rules but the public have been dramatically introduced to the issue of food crime and it’s a problem that will surface again.

In a wider sense, Scotland’s food and drink success story gathered pace in 2013 with turnover smashing a target set for 2017.

The new target for that year is now £16.5 billion with almost half of that coming from exports. Whisky and salmon continue to be the big driving forces and 2013 saw salmon exports up 13 per cent, plus plans for new distilleries and expanded capacity at existing facilities.

For farmers, there was the welcome news that Scotch beef is back on the menu in the United States after ten years of restrictions resulting from the BSE crisis.

This ruling offers the potential of huge new export opportunities in the years ahead.

At home, the Scottish Government launched the Eat in Season campaign, urging consumers to make the most of our natural larder at the appropriate times of the year.

Moving forward, that remains the key challenge for the food and drink sector. We can only truly be a land of food and drink when the produce is valued and enjoyed here, as well as being sent for export.

If that was 2013, what do the next 12 months hold? On paper, 2014 should be a vintage year for the food and drink industry.

The Commonwealth Games, Homecoming, Ryder Cup and Bannockburn commemorations will bring huge numbers of visitors to Scotland and shine a light on how we feed large numbers of people.

On the plate, I think we can look forward to a return to real food. Molecular gastronomy and foams have now come and firmly gone. Based on what’s happening in London at the moment, big gutsy food bursting with flavour will be the shape of things to come next year.

If you’re celebrating with stovies, shortbread or steak pie, good eating and a very Happy New Year when it comes.