food (12)


The report for a project (FA0197) funded by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on the Implications of emerging novel proteins for food authenticity and labelling has been published.

The project focused on potential emerging risks regarding authenticity and labelling of alternative protein products, how these products may fit under the current regulatory framework for food labelling and how current testing capability can support product authentication and detection of emerging fraud risks in this sector.

The report has been added to the Research section of this website.

Key findings

Authenticity and fraud
According to the sources consulted for this review, little consideration has been given to potential food fraud in the alternative protein sector, especially by innovators and producers. However, the developments in the field inevitably will carry associated risks of food fraud. Situations that might act as drivers of food fraud such as the alternative protein being more expensive or harder to source than the equivalent animal protein can be envisaged, especially with new technologies/sources that may not yet be well established and require pre-market regulatory approval. Ingredient substitution can occur in any
category and direction, alternative for conventional and vice versa.

For some novel products, the supply chain may be more complicated and fragmented, and this may make them more vulnerable to fraud. Adulteration of proteins in powder forms has been identified as high risk, and verification of recombinant animal proteins produced by precision fermentation (as distinct from animal-derived proteins) as a challenge.

Analytical tools
Current analytical methods for food authentication will face issues such as a lack of genome data for novel species, the effect of novel processing techniques on biomolecules, identification of animal proteins produced by precision fermentation or identification of cell lines used for cultivated meat products.

Since the extent of processing can affect the efficacy of analytical methodologies, some existing methods may require updating to be effective on materials due to the more highly processed nature of many novel foods. Genomic information for the species used as sources of protein is required along with proteomics and metabolomics databases and bioinformatics tools to support analytical methods. Spectroscopy techniques and orthogonal methods that integrate data from different technologies are regarded as powerful tools that will support verification of alternative protein products.

Additional tools to support authenticity of alternative proteins
In addition to analytical methods, the wider food supply chain control systems must evolve to accommodate emerging complexities. Areas identified as potentially promising to mitigate food fraud risks include:
• Computational solutions: block chain, big data, artificial intelligence
• Integration of computational tools with analytical technologies such as sensors or molecular markers
• Standards and certification schemes

Labelling of alternative proteins
There are two main points of debate around labelling of alternative proteins globally: (i) the concern about the use of descriptors traditionally used for animal-derived products to label and market substitutes made of non-animal protein, and (ii) the question of transparency about the methods of production. Regarding names, as well as imagery used on labels, the regulations vary across countries and, with the fast development of novel products, the issue is a current topic of debate. In the UK, food information and labelling are governed by the Food Information to Consumers Regulation 1169/2011. This regulation outlines the general requirement for labelling to be clear, easy to understand, visible and not misleading as to the characteristics and nature of the food. Additionally, the Common Market Organisation (CMO) regulations, retained from EU legislation dealing with sales descriptions for dairy, reserves the term milk, and various milk product terms exclusively for dairy. However, meat terms do not have the same degree of protection, and descriptors such as ‘burger’ or ‘sausage’, as well as related imagery are used in the alternative protein sector.

Regarding methods of production, in some cases, there may be a conflict between providing transparency and the technical complexities of the methods. Using terminology that is clear for consumers may be difficult, for example, there is debate about the most appropriate name for meat produced in vitro, as terms like ‘cultured’, ‘cultivated’, ‘synthetic’, ‘lab-grown’, etc, may be viewed by consumers as unclear or negative. The evidence found during this project (stakeholder interviews, early consumer research found in literature, comments from conference) mostly supports the use of terms that refer
to the format of the product (burger, sausage, etc) as long as the label clearly states the non-animal source, although further research into consumer perceptions of APs is needed to fully understand this emerging area.

Future research needs

Short-term (0 – 3 years)
• Impact of new processing technologies on performance of existing authenticity tests.
o Survey of existing AP products for which DNA or protein-based speciation methods exist to assess performance.
o Studies on products and techniques under development, e.g, 3-D printing, new extraction methods.
• Identify and address points of vulnerability in the supply chain.
• Methods for detection of adulteration with nitrogen compounds.
• Investigate biomarkers to support authenticity testing of APs (plant-based, mycoproteins, precision fermentation).
• Support databases as tools for authenticity testing – genome, proteome, metabolome, spectral data, isotope ratios. Collaboration and data sharing are essential.
• Research into allergenicity potential and allergen detection in APs. Although this falls under the safety assessment of foods and therefore outside Defra’s remit, it is tightly linked to food authenticity and labelling, and the ability to verify food composition.

Medium-term (3-5 years)
• Build on learnings and develop new detection methods using biomarkers identified, new databases, knowledge of how new technologies may alter biomolecules.
• Develop reference materials to support testing of AP.
• Validate testing methods across laboratories.
• Build on biomarkers and methods to cover other categories of AP such as insect protein, algae protein.
• Continue to work on databases expanding to new sources of proteins - genome, proteome, metabolome, spectral data, isotope ratios.
• Engage with big data, artificial intelligence, block chain initiatives and research into application to food authenticity.
• Identify and address points of vulnerability in the supply chain.
• Analyse fraud in the AP sector to inform improvements to control and development of testing tools to support risk mitigation.

Long-term (5+ years)
• Continue to build on biomarkers and methods to cover other categories of AP such as cultivated meat and seafood, novel microorganisms grown for biomass.
• Continue to assess the AP food supply chain to adapt to increasing complexities (new sources of raw materials, novel technologies, sourcing ingredients from different countries, etc). Additional research on traceability and authenticity of new ingredients.
• Continue to develop big data and computational tools and integration with testing methodologies.

Photo by Deryn Macey on Unsplash





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9389120853?profile=RESIZE_584xGenome editing, also known as gene editing, is one of the precision breeding techniques in food that may be adopted by the government after EU Exit. Therefore DEFRA have run a public consultation on genetic technologies in food (Opens in a new window).

This research by the Food Standards Agency complements the consultation by gathering evidence specifically on consumer interests. For more information about genome editing in food, view our FSA Explains video.


Key findings  

  • Consumers tended to have very low awareness and very low knowledge of GE food.
  • More informed consumers were, or became, more accepting of GE food.
  • Consumers tended to find GE food more acceptable than GM food. However, consumers found GM or GE applied to plants more acceptable than applications to animals, for example, due to human safety and animal welfare concerns.
  • Most consumers felt it would be appropriate to regulate GE foods separately from GM foods. At the same time, many felt regulation should be just as thorough as for GM.
  • Most consumers felt labelling should always inform the consumer of the presence of GE ingredients using the full term ‘genome edited’.  
  • Overall, consumers wanted thorough regulation and transparent labelling if GE foods reach the UK market, and they suggested social media information campaigns and TV documentaries would help educate the public on GE food. 

Download report and appendices.

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This study provides a preliminary quantitative and qualitative analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on European agriculture and the agri-food supply chain in light of the responses deployed by the European Union and its Member States to mitigate its effects.

• Overall, during the pandemic, the EU agri-food supply chain has demonstrated a high degree of resilience. The
value of the output of the agricultural industry declined by 1.4% in 2020 compared to 2019, although, when
compared to the 2015-2019 average, it grew by 2.9%. Nonetheless, sectors highly dependent on the food service
(e.g. wine, beef and veal) have faced major difficulties. Flowers and plants and sugar have also suffered
considerable financial losses.
• The EU response was highly effective in preserving the integrity of the Single market. Conversely, measures
adopted under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) had mixed results having been implemented partially or
inconsistently across Member States (MSs).
• The costs of the crisis for the EU agri-food sector will be borne primarily by MSs. National financial support - namely
in the form of State aids (estimated EUR 63.9 billion) and other instruments – has been significantly higher than
EU support (EUR 80 million in private storage aids).
• To better respond to future crises, policy responses should be designed following a ‘food systems approach’.
Moreover, the reasons behind the limited impact of CAP measures during the pandemic should be better
investigated. Consideration should also be given to the decoupling of the CAP crisis reserve from farmers’ direct
payments to reinforce EU financial capacity during crises. Finally, because of the economic consequences of the
pandemic, food assistance programmes for the most deprived are needed.

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300Over a quarter of consumers actively stated that they distrust government authorities and manufacturers (29% and 26% respectively) found the EIT #FoodTrustReport.

What's damaging consumer trust? Anthony Warner - known as The Angry Chef - says: "there's too much information [about food choices]. It's all very confusing."

In this episode of #EITFoodFight, he and Liesbet Vranken explore:

➡️ Food marketing and health claims like 'detox'
➡️ The role of social media influencers
➡️ Where consumers can get trustworthy information.

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Food in a Pandemic report published


The Food in a Pandemic report, commissioned by the FSA and produced by Demos as part of Renew Normal: The People’s Commission on Life after Covid, looks to understand how a new food environment created during the pandemic has impacted the public’s behaviours and preferences. The research included: a nationally representative survey of 10,069 UK adults, a nationally representative online deliberative method called Polis with 1,006 UK respondents, a series of four deliberative workshops, and an open access survey of 911 adults.

Key findings on the public’s experience during the pandemic 

Food insecurity 

The report shows that people have stepped in to help prevent new forms of food insecurity caused by people self-isolating by offering informal forms of support such as shopping for others   

Findings also show there is a public appetite for the government to take action to help feed those without the means to feed themselves. People also tend to be more supportive of preventative actions for food insecurity, such as ensuring well-paid jobs are available to all. Just under two thirds (63%) agreed in the Polis that ‘it is the government’s responsibility to make sure no-one goes hungry’. 

UK food supply 

It’s reported a significant proportion of the population have bought food more locally or grown more food during the pandemic, reflecting a wider move towards individual self-sufficiency. Many of those who have made this move expect it to continue after the pandemic. 

78% of those surveyed supported the UK keeping its current food quality standards, even if food is more expensive and less competitive in the global market. A similar proportion (82%) also supported maintaining the UK’s current animal welfare standards, when presented with the same trade-off against prices and competitiveness. 

Diet and eating habits 

There has been a complex shift in people’s diets during Covid-19, with more home cooking. Although a third (32%) of respondents in the poll reported eating more healthy main meals, a third (33%) ate more unhealthy snacks. 

Some of the restrictions and public health advice, such as stay at home, might have encouraged more healthy eating. Those who have cooked more or eaten healthier main meals tend to expect this change to continue. However, this is likely to be somewhat dependent on the other changes, such as continued flexible working.  

Read full report.


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A study of the grain trade during 2020 indicates that policies to protect supply chains must be enacted to avoid supply chain shocks such as COVID-19 and locust swarms exacerbating food insecurity in global regions that rely on food imports.

Food insecurity is complex — there is no silver bullet of policy or market intervention that can lead to a situation where all people at all times will have continuous access to healthy, affordable diets. And though global food systems are interdependent and also complex, food insecurity in many regions has been precipitated by pestilence, environmental disaster and conflict. Pestilence is a fatal epidemic or pandemic disease affecting humans, crops or livestock that impacts food supply and production; insect and rodent plagues remain a major threat to human food security1,2,3,4,5. Recently, swarms of locusts larger than any recorded in recent decades detrimentally affected more than 330,000 hectares of land from Ethiopia to India6, whilst the COVID-19 pandemic — and the controls implemented to curb infection rates — affected food production and supply3.

In times of crisis, the demand for staple foods increases in ways that can destabilize local and global supply chains and cause social unrest3,7. In this issue of Nature Food, Falkendal et al.8 quantify wheat, rice and maize supply chain disruption from 2020 locust swarms and COVID-19-related effects on food prices, stock levels, international trade and export restrictions. The study considers two dimensions of food security, first outlined nearly a quarter of a century ago at the World Food Summit in 1996, namely: physical availability of food (production output, stock levels and trade dynamics) and economic and physical access to food (the ability to buy food, for example, ratio of prices to income, and accessible marketing channels). The authors frame their argument in terms of stability and the socio-economic shocks (political instability, unemployment and drastic loss of income) that the COVID-19 pandemic brings with it that will lead to greater food insecurity in the short and medium term.

In their model, Falkendal and colleagues find that export restrictions and precautionary purchasing in response to COVID-19 could destabilize global grain trade, leading to many low- and middle-income countries that rely on grain imports potentially experiencing further food insecurity that exacerbates the effects felt from shocks such as COVID-19 and locust swarms. Thus, protectionist measures initiated by governments, institutions or market actors to secure national food security will affect those who are food vulnerable, and consumer support policy measures should be introduced to mitigate the risk of food insecurity. The authors call for incremental rather than blunt, binary ‘borders open or borders closed’ food security policies, and a need for mutually agreed solutions to address food insecurity — rather than unilateral national decision-making based primarily on self-interest. Whether altruist or self-serving food security policies are implemented by governments and market actors will be demonstrated in practice over the coming months.

The impact of economic stabilization policies following the 2007 economic crash highlights how individuals and households can transition instantly from a higher standard of living into a situation where they must survive with less, raising the question as to what is the minimum standard for an acceptable life9. In the UK, the last time minimum standards with regard to food for an acceptable life were determined was the food rationing legislation on 15 September 194110 — the Hansard report makes challenging reading when comparing the proposed austere diet to our typical food consumption in the UK. The UN Sustainable Development Goals also determine the dynamics of an acceptable life, and multi-level consensus building and action is essential to safeguard food supply – especially if, as a global community, we seek to deliver the two targets of “no poverty and zero hunger”. Despite having policy and technological tools to reduce the impact of many human, zoonotic and plant diseases, collective strategic risk at local, regional and global levels cannot be ignored. Falkendal and colleagues have shown that a proactive strategy and a co-ordinated collective response with shared goals and co-operative actions is necessary as the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and natural events such as locust swarms arise in order to ensure that the grain trade remains stable, equitable and accessible to all.

Download PDF.





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8017971267?profile=RESIZE_584x Registration is now open for a free online conference, run in partnership between the UK Food Standards Agency and the University of Sheffield, on Monday 9 November 2020 as part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Festival of Social Science.

The COVID 19 outbreak has necessitated a move away from more traditional data collection methods and accelerated the innovative use of digital data. In partnership with the University of Sheffield, this virtual half-day event will demonstrate how digital data collection and analysis can inform our understanding of food, and outline key findings related to the digitalisation of food behaviours.  

It will cover the recent review of the FSA flagship survey, Food and You, digital self-report methods on handwashing behaviour and key findings from recent social media analysis, including COVID-19 trends in food behaviour.    

The event offers an excellent opportunity for anyone in the social science community to hear about how social science directly informs real life policy-making in a government context under rapidly changing circumstances. As well as learning about the work and priorities of the FSA and international colleagues, virtual panel sessions will provide an opportunity to discuss ideas with experts from academia, industry and policy.  

To book your place, please register using Eventbrite.  

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7857420698?profile=RESIZE_710xThe State of Counterfeiting in India 2020 report, performed by the Authentication Solution Provider's Association (ASPA), determined that counterfeit incidents rose by nearly a quarter between 2018 and 2019, with a 21% rise specifically in the food & beverage sector.

The rise in food fraud could negatively impact India's new "Make In India" campaign, which was launched in 2014 and aimed at making India a global hub of manufacturing by encouraging companies to manufacture their products in the companyThe report emphasises the importance of ensuring products are genuine and safe to consumer trust.

Read more about the report and it's details here on Food Navigator Asia.

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Over 25 stakeholders from various cannabis industry sectors in Canada, USA and the EU, participated in the recent Cannabis Authenticity and Purity Standard (CAPS) Steering Committee Session, on June 23 2020, to hear more about the need for standardized safety and quality measures throughout the medicinal, edible, beverage, topical and recreational cannabis product supply chain.  

Cannabis and hemp are natural products increasingly consumed for their perceived health benefits by those seeking alternative nutrition and medicine to deal with common ailments such as chronic pain, anxiety, infections, and compromised immunity. In many jurisdictions where these products are legally available, government regulations tend to stipulate only the basic safety requirements. In most other established industry sectors, brands, retailers, and consumers demand far more than the minimum regulatory requirements and usually impose more rigorous safety and quality brand protection measures from their suppliers.

Steering Committee participants also interacted with presenters such as Roger Muse, a Vice President at the ANSI American National Accreditation Board (ANAB), who spoke about the value of third-party accreditation, standards, and testing methods specifically designed for the cannabis industry. “We are excited to be working with Purity-IQ whose CAPS third-party certification will combine requirements for ISO/IEC 17065 accreditation process together with ISO/IEC 17025 laboratory accreditation. As a condition for doing business, the CAPS certification process will provide brands and specifiers with much needed safety and consistency assurances.”

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The guidance for food business operators and their employees is aimed to assist all food businesses in following government guidance on infection prevention and control measures against COVID-19.

Scottish Government requirements to close restaurants, cafes and public houses to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has led many of these businesses to offer new take-away or delivery services to their customers. The closure of many catering businesses has also resulted in increased demand for existing take-away businesses.  In recognition of the challenges faced by small businesses in the food take-away sector we have produced a practical guide to help them communicate consistently to their customers, including model notices that can be used to maintain social distancing requirements at their premises.

The guidance is being continually reviewed and will be updated to reflect developments so please refer to the FSS website for their latest advice.

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An introduction to DNA melting curve analysis


This e-seminar, entitled “An introduction to DNA melting curve analysis”, describes the principles behind, as well as best practice guidelines for the application of the post-PCR analytical method of DNA melting curve analysis. The information presented will provide the viewer with a general introduction to PCR-based DNA melting analysis as a method for food authenticity testing, and provide guidance on how to design, implement and analyse PCR DNA melting assay data. Topics covered will include the principles underpinning DNA melting analysis, designing PCR DNA melting assays, examples of PCR instruments compatible with DNA melting analysis, and guidance on troubleshooting. Those who should consider viewing this e-seminar include individuals currently working within the foods molecular testing area, particularly representatives from UK Official Control Laboratories, industry and members of organisations associated with the UK official control network.

View e-seminar here.

The production of this e-seminar was funded by Defra, FSA, FSS and BEIS under the Joint Knowledge Transfer Framework for Food Standards and Food Safety Analysis.

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Crowe Clark Whitehill has published a report about consumers expectations, food and drink businesses, and their approach to counter fraud.

The report highlights the divergence between common industry practice and consumer expectations.  For example, consumers expect that food and drink businesses to share information early and not wait until all the facts are known.

Consumers also expect businesses to share information about incidents that result in a financial loss, not just incidents that could cause a health risk. 

Consumers expect businesses to share detailed information with the Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit/National Food Crime Unit rather than combined and anonymised data.

The overarching message across the various findings is that consumers expect more transparency. Which is a reasonable expectation. The report is available here:

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