The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Environment Agency (EA) are to be given powers to authorise criminal conduct under a new piece of legislation passing through Parliament.
The organisations are two of only ten public authorities which will be able to approve illegal behaviour under the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) Bill, alongside the intelligence agencies, National Crime Agency, police, HMRC and HM Forces.
The powers are being granted to the FSA to allow the National Food Crime Unit to protect consumers and the food industry from food crime.
Use of these powers could include activity conducted while employed at a food business which is under investigation, such as transporting produce which is known to have been stolen or altering food documentation.
The Environment Agency, which has responsibility for investigating and prosecuting waste crime and other environmentally damaging criminal activity, will use the powers to these ends.
A spokesman for the EA told Farmers Guardian: “We will only ever authorise the use of the powers in the CHIS Bill when it is absolutely necessary, proportionate and with great care and scrutiny.
“Any use will be subject to robust independent oversight by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner.”
An amendment to the Bill which would have stopped the authorisation of serious offences including causing death or bodily harm, torture, violating the sexual integrity of a person or detention was defeated in the House of Commons.
Two Shadow Ministers subsequently resigned and joined 32 other Labour MPs in voting against the legislation.
The Government insists public authorities will be bound by the Human Rights Act when authorising criminal activity.