food security (9)

12299674074?profile=RESIZE_710xThe United Kingdom Food Security Report (UKFSR) sets out an analysis of statistical data relating to food security by examining past, current, and predicted relevant trends to present the best available understanding of food security.

The UK Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) published the first UKFSR on 16 December 2021 and is now planning the production of the next UKFSR, which will be published in the second half of 2024.

Defra is currently seeking users' views on the content of the 2024 UKFSR.

As with the 2021 report, the next report will cover 5 themes:

  • Theme 1: Global availability
  • Theme 2: UK food supply sources
  • Theme 3: Supply chain resilience
  • Theme 4: Food security at household level
  • Theme 5: Food safety and consumer confidence.

Please help Defra to improve the next report by answering a few short questions on these themes, and the report as a whole, by 15 December 2023Access Defra questionnaire.

Thank you!

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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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10346791061?profile=original FDF has updated the ‘Product Labelling Requirements’ section of its Ukraine webpage as follows:

"80% of global sunflower oil exports originate from Ukraine or Russia and many manufacturers will need to switch to alternative vegetable oils and certain other ingredients (e.g. emulsifiers). This has implications for information included on product labels. Based on our initial work with Government, pragmatic enforcement has now been advised in order to help minimise any supply disruptions. This includes a specific derogation for the substitution of sunflower oil with refined rapeseed oil. The FDF are in ongoing discussions to broaden out this derogation to other ingredients. Companies are strongly advised to have conversations with their Local/Primary Authorities for these case by case and temporary enforcement flexibilities to be permitted."

The Food Security page on the Food Authenticity Network has also been updated accordingly.

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10251976864?profile=RESIZE_584xIn response to requests for information on emerging food security issues from our Members, the Food Authenticity Network Team has created a ‘Food Security Resource Base’ on our website, which signposts stakeholders to third party content on potential / actual disruption to the food and drink supply chain resulting from the current conflict in Ukraine.

The information is presented in two sections:

  • Government information
  • Food Industry information.
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10047990673?profile=RESIZE_710xFood and You 2 is a biannual survey which measures self-reported consumer knowledge, attitudes and behaviours related to food safety and other food issues amongst adults in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The survey is primarily carried out online using a methodology known as ‘push-to-web’.

Fieldwork was conducted between 28 April 2021 and 25 June 2021. A total of 6,271 adults from 4,338 households across England, Wales and Northern Ireland completed the survey.

Topics covered in the Food and You 2: Wave 3 Key Findings report include:

  • Confidence in food safety, authenticity and the food supply chain  
  • Concerns about food  
  • Food security
  • Food shopping and labelling 
  • Online platforms 
  • Food-related behaviours and eating habits.

Main findings

  • Most respondents (90%) reported that they were confident that the food they buy is safe to eat
  • More than 8 in 10 (83%) respondents were confident that the information on food labels is accurate
  • Almost three quarters of respondents (73%) reported that they had confidence in the food supply chain
  • Three quarters (75%) of respondents who had at least some knowledge of the FSA reported that they trusted the FSA to make sure ‘food is safe and what it says it is’
  • Most respondents (80%) had no concerns about the food they eat, and only 20% of respondents reported that they had a concern. The most common prompted concerns, from a given list of food related issues, were related to the amount of sugar in food (63%), and food waste (61%).
  • Across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, 85% of respondents were classified as food secure (72% high, 13% marginal) and 15% of respondents were classified as food insecure (9% low, 6% very low)
  • Most respondents reported that they often check the use-by (84%) or best before (82%) date when they have bought food.
  • Most respondents (83%) who go food shopping and take into consideration a person who has a food allergy or intolerance were confident that the information provided on food labelling allows them to identify foods that will cause a bad or unpleasant physical reaction
  • Around half (52%) of respondents had ordered food or drink via on online ordering and delivery company (for example, Just Eat, Deliveroo, Uber Eats) and 30% had ordered via an online marketplace (for example Amazon, Gumtree, Etsy)
  • Eating habits had changed for most respondents in the last 12 months, with only 19% of respondents indicating that there had been no change in their eating habits

Read final report and technical report.


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USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) has published its annual International Food Security Assessment, which shows that the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has made food security worse.

The annual report determines how much access people in 76 low and middle-income countries have to food. The answer to that question requires tracking incomes, food prices, and other economic factors including agriculture production and market conditions.

“In the 76 low- and middle-income countries examined in the report, the number of people considered food insecure in 2020 was estimated at almost 761 million people or 19.8 percent of the total population. The shock to GDP from COVID-19 is projected to increase the number of food-insecure people by 83.5 million people in 2020 to 844.5 million and increase the share of the population that is food insecure to 22 percent.”

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The UK food industry has asked the government to waive aspects of competition law to allow firms to co-ordinate and direct supplies with each other after a no-deal Brexit.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said it repeatedly asked ministers for clarity on a no-deal scenario.

Existing rules prohibit suppliers and retailers discussing supply or pricing.

The industry says leaving in the autumn could pose more supply problems than the original Brexit date last March.

The FDF, which represents a wide range of food companies and trade associations, said: "We asked for these reassurances at the end of last year. But we're still waiting."

The boss of one leading retailer told the BBC: "At the extreme, people like me and people from government will have to decide where lorries go to keep the food supply chain going. And in that scenario we'd have to work with competitors, and the government would have to suspend competition laws."

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This post-graduate course is the result of a partnership between the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen's University Belfast and multinational analytical laboratory instrument and software company Waters Corporation. It offers professionals the chance to learn remotely on a part-time basis from renowned experts to increase their knowledge of the threats to feed and food compromising food security, and also about the techniques and methods which can be used to confirm food safety and integrity. Topics include concerns around food fraud, authenticity and traceability, the links between chemical contaminants and human and animal health, the biological hazards and threats posed by animal feed and food, the various technologies used to enable rapid and early detection of food safety issues, and the current and future global food legislation needed to ensure and maintain sustainable food safety production. The course is currently accepting applications for October 2017 and February 2018 start dates.

Read the article and see a video at: On-line Masters in Food Fraud

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A Chatham House report warns of 'chokepoints' in the supply of food, such as the Suez Canal, the US rail network and the Turkish Straits, could become 'epicentres of systemic disruption'. It also reports that the world’s food supplies are in danger as climate change and the increasing reliance on global trade threaten to create shortages and sudden, dramatic increases in prices. The report’s authors warned of a growing risk  to food security with the potential for systemic disruption. Investment in infrastructure lags demand growth: critical networks in major crop-producing regions are weak and ageing, and extra capacity is urgently needed.  

Read the report at: Climate change vulnerabilities of food security

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