UK wins EU research fund to lead the fight against food fraud
A new €12 million, EU-funded project against food fraud has been launched. The five-year project, led by the UK’s Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), will address these issues at a European level. The FoodIntegrity project will bring together major stakeholders and scientific expertise from across the world.
Defra Minister for Food, George Eustice states, “The UK has some of the highest standards of food safety in the world and is home to some of the best minds in science. I’m immensely proud that we have been chosen to drive world-leading, cutting-edge research that will improve our ability to prevent food fraud.”
Fera is at the forefront of research in this area with over twenty years’ experience in food authenticity. Paul Brereton, FoodIntegrity Project Co-ordinator and Head of Agri-food Research at Fera, adds, “As the perpetrators of food fraud use increasingly sophisticated methods to avoid detection so science must develop to detect and prevent this crime. The project will provide a focal point for the sharing and exploitation of European research aimed at protecting the integrity of food production in Europe.”
The FoodIntegrity project will:
- establish in the UK a self-sustaining early warning system to identify emerging risks of food fraud. Text mining and webcrawler technologies will look at consumer behaviour and a range of inputs (technological, public health, environment, socio-economic and demographic changes, agricultural, global trade). The system will link into existing data sources and technology centres such as that of National centre for Food defence and protection in the US.
- invest €3 million to close gaps in existing research on food fraud.
- make testing methods for food fraud consistent across all Member States to improve food law enforcement across Europe.
- establish groups of independent experts to share information on food authenticity and food fraud with the European Commission, Codex and other national/international bodies.
- establish a self-sustaining worldwide network of industry, regulator and consumer representatives to ensure maximum uptake of the project legacy, including the independent expert network, data sharing, early warning systems.
- carry out a consumer study in China to assess Chinese consumer attitudes in the face of substantial counterfeiting of European food. (There is evidence that some UK exports are being undermined by counterfeiting in foreign markets).
Maintaining the integrity of European foods is vital to protect both consumers and industry. There must be consumer confidence in the authenticity of all food products. EU food law makes it clear that it is the responsibility of food businesses to ensure the food they sell is safe and is as described. Although commonly considered to be a largely economic issue, there can be serious food safety implications as a result fraudulent products being sold to consumers. The food industry also suffers as perpetrators attempt to cash in on the added value of UK and EU food products and undermine the competitiveness of the agri-food economy.
The project’s first dissemination conference, “Food Fraud – the Analytical Tools”, also takes place this week. The conference will showcase Defra’s cutting edge Food Authenticity programme and European research into food authenticity.