The UK is facing the greatest threat to the integrity of its food supply since World War II according to one of the country’s leading food security experts.
Professor Chris Elliott (pictured), who was appointed by the government to investigate the horsemeat scandal in 2013 that saw up to 50,000 horses disappear from across Europe, has warned that a combination of factors such as Brexit and global warming mean the country’s food supply is potentially less secure than at any point in the last 70 years.
Speaking at a conference of food industry experts this autumn, the professor warned that the UK is not yet prepared for the many challenges that Brexit will pose to the safe supply and production of food.
He also stressed that compromises on food safety standards was a real and immediate threat, while a lack of action on global warming was leading to the increase in incidences of disease and drought that have already devastated some of the food commodities we have come to rely on.
He also pointed to increased price pressure on food suppliers, which increased the risk for food fraud as farmers and producers struggle to meet the lower prices demanded by retailers.
The professor, who is the founder of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, issued the warning at the Food Fraud, Culture and Modern Catering Processes conference in Doncaster last month, hosted by exam board Highfield Qualifications.
Professor Elliott said: “As a country we need to seriously begin considering how we ‘future proof’ the integrity of our food supply in the face of the challenges coming in the next few years. To understand what we are eating, where it comes from and how it was produced are of fundamental importance to regaining trust. To reconnect with our food system should be considered a national imperative.”
He added: “We have made good progress on the issue of food fraud since the publication of the Elliott Review into the Integrity and Assurance of Food Supply Networks in 2014. However, although food fraud remains a priority to those of us concerned with the integrity of our food supply, we need to be versatile and responsive in how we deal with other – potentially greater – challenges to come, especially around Brexit and global warming.”
The Elliott Review into the Integrity and Assurance of Food Supply Networks – Final Report: A National Food Crime Prevention Framework can be found at http://bit.ly/YdCPGk