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Tackling food fraud: Transforming industry from farm to fork

New technology and innovation are changing the landscape in the food industry from the farm to the shop shelf.


Alex   Black

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Alex   Black
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'Gene editing can bring clear benefits to UK food and farming industry'

Tackling food fraud

 

ADAPTING techniques from the criminal forensic field was helping tackle food fraud in the supply chain, offering consumers confidence in the provenance of goods.

 

New Zealand based Oritain was using technology used to identify bodies in murder cases to provide traceability for PGI Welsh Lamb.

 

Following discoveries that exports to Asian markets were being tampered with, or packaging was reused for domestic product, NZ brands were looking to guarantee the origin of the product.

 

Grant Cochrane, Oritain chief executive, said other traceability processes, whether paper-based or blockchain, were ‘only as good as their weakest link’.

 

He said: “If someone falsifies a record, is inaccurate, or does not update it, there is a danger that what is at the final stage is not true.”

 

Welsh lamb and beef can be traced by its ‘fingerprint’, as Hybu Cig Cymru looks to protect the quality and traceability of PGI brands. Consumers look at Welsh produce as a mark of quality, so fraud poses a real risk.

 

Mr Cochrane said: “Basically, if you can eat it or it is grown in the ground, we can verify and prove its origin.”

 

From the grass they eat, the rainfall and the feed they are given, animals ‘absorb’ the naturally occurring elements in their environment, creating a ‘fingerprint’, and Oritain has pulled together a database of what Welsh beef and lamb looks like.

 

They can then test any part of the supply chain and ensure the product is what it claims.


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New technologies

 

CONSISTENCY will always be key for meat processors, with new technology helping them make grading more consistent and produce a better product for consumers.

 

Once the meat was cut off the animal, the whole process was mainly automated, according to British Meat Processors Association chief executive Nick Allen. It helped combat the sector’s biggest challenge, getting enough labour, alongside making cuts more consistent.

 

Mr Allen said: “Lack of consistency causes a problem for the consumer. If you are a mother buying four steaks, you want four the same size.”

 

Visual imaging analysis was also being used for more consistent grading, removing concerns a human grader’s opinion was subjective.

 

He added the technology could then pass information further down for processing, further boosting efficiency.

Changing demands

 

Innovation in the dairy sector was helping provide new innovative products to meet changing demands of consumers.

 

Muller has been looking at reformulation to cut down on sugar in its products without affecting taste and move into the growing ‘lactose-free’ sector.

 

Its yoghurt range has achieved a 13.5 per cent reduction in total sugar since 2015, alongside launching new Muller Corner Plain, with unsweetened Greek-style yoghurt, adding a zero added sugar option to its Frijj range and the Muller Corner Lactose-Free range.

 

Michael Inpong, chief marketing officer at Muller, said the company was ‘extremely passionate’ about empowering people to live more healthy lifestyles, as he announced a 9 per cent reduction in sugar for Muller Corner.

 

He said by changing the culture which makes the yoghurt, it had created a ‘thicker and creamier texture, but with less sugar’.

 

The dairy highlighted its innovation was not limited to the product development side, looking at reinventing the milkman with a ‘never seen before’ electric vehicle.

 

It has also introduced options to manage volatility for farmers and technology throughout factories to make the process as efficient as possible.

Making the most of data through benchmarking

 

Benchmarking and data utilisation have been hot topics recently, but it is often time-consuming and difficult to get data into a format where it could be useful for the farmer.

 

With many looking to get on top of costs, margins and productivity, as the industry gears up for changes in subsidy post-Brexit, getting a system in place which minimises time and effort needed has a huge appeal.

 

Rob Sanders and Colin Phillipson founded Glas Data about a year ago to integrate data collection and visualisation.

 

Mr Sanders said: “At the moment, a farmer or food processor often has to deal with a lot of data services. It is a real big barrier to entry.”

 

Glas Data is software which provides visual analysis from any data source, allowing farmers or food businesses to utilise any data they want from their own farm and elsewhere.

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