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Food Authenticity Network

Selvarani Elahi, Steve Ellison, Mark Woolfe and Felicia Golden provide an update on the growth of the Food Authenticity Network, a virtual network that brings together information on food authenticity testing to help all stakeholders better combat food fraud.

The Food Authenticity Network is a free toolkit that can help fight food fraud and build a more resilient food supply chain. It is a UK government-funded initiative that was born out of the 2013 horsemeat issue and brings together all those with an interest in food authenticity testing and food fraud mitigation.

The Network raises awareness of tools available to check for mislabelling and food fraud and ensures that stakeholders have access to a resilient network of laboratories providing fit for purpose testing for food authenticity, so that ultimately consumers will have greater confidence in the food they buy.

This article reviews developments since May 2016 when we first told Food Science and Technology readers about the Network.

Website

The website will be three years old on 14 July 2018 and has grown substantially; there are currently over 820 members from 41 countries/territories (Figures 1a and 1b), and over 1,143 followers of the Network’s Twitter account. Figure 2 shows the main features of the website, which acts as a one-stop-shop for information on food authenticity testing.

The website also acts as an

open forum for the interchange of information between members of the food authenticity community to resolve authenticity problems, in particular discussion of ‘fit for purpose’ methods and promotion of best measurement practice in authenticity analysis. It now includes a section on Food Fraud Mitigation, in which the major global services, guidance and reports aimed at preventing food fraud have been collated. The types of service and information available are shown in Figure 3.

Food authenticity method related information resources currently available on the website include research materials (101), methods (65), surveys (16) and nitrogen factors (22).

The Network’s aim is to keep members informed of new

developments in food authenticity, new initiatives to investigate and prevent food fraud and major problems in the global food supply. To this end, to date, over 330 news posts have been added and over 50 events advertised. As our global membership grows we will continue to report authenticity and fraud news from around the world.

Governance

Independent governance remains at the heart of the Network and the membership of the Management Committee has been widened to include Kaisa Kazimierczak, Senior Scientific Advisor in the Food Protection Science and Surveillance Department of Food Standards Scotland and Franz Ulberth, Head of the Knowledge Centre for Food Fraud and Quality at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. The governance structure is shown in Figure 4.

Member survey

A member survey carried out in 2017 showed a very positive response from members on the impact they think the Food Authenticity Network is having against Defra’s original objectives for it (Figure 5).

Creation of a global Food Authenticity Network

The first two years of the project were funded by Defra, with the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland coming in to co-fund the third year. We are now in the fourth year of the Network and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has also joined the government co-funding consortium. In 2018, the Network will transition from being solely government funded to an industry led initiative seeking to build a truly global Food Authenticity Network by working with the food industry and other stakeholders from around the world.

The Network team was tasked by government to build a cost efficient model and this has been achieved, as the cost of running the Network, at a basic level, is only £30K per annum. We are delighted to announce that we have secured this underpinning level of funding from BEIS, which means that the Network can continue to operate as a free resource to all stakeholders on food authenticity testing and food fraud related matters until March 2021!

However, as food fraud is an international phenomenon that crosses borders, a truly global solution is required. The aim is to build on the current success of the Network, by working with the food industry and other stakeholders from around the world and to grow it into a global Food Authenticity Network. If a truly global network is to be achieved, the Food Authenticity Network will require further funding.

We plan to raise the additional funding by asking stakeholder organisations to make modest contributions (which can be as little as £1K per annum) to support the growth of the Network; a cooperative funding model similar to that used by the Science Media Centre will be used. Setting up this model of funding to support the Network will allow it to operate on a long term sustainable basis, as envisaged by the Elliott Review and help all stakeholders to better combat food fraud.

Why should the Food Authenticity Network be supported?

•To ensure continued operation of a free, open access resource for all stakeholders, creating a level playing field

•To ensure members can keep up to date with the latest developments in food authenticity testing

•To help industry develop food fraud mitigation plans

•To help build capability and capacity in third countries

•To help improve consumer protection by fighting food fraud globally leading to more secure food supply chains and increasing consumer trust in the food they buy.

What will supporters get?

•Affirmation that they support Food Authenticity assurance by contributing to the Network

•Use of our logo on their website and marketing material:

•Listing, if desired, on the Network website

•Direct access to 14 Food Authenticity Testing Centres of Expertise

•Ability to post to the Network website.

If you wish to support the Food Authenticity Network then please contact us to discuss this further.

The Food Authenticity Network Team

Secretary Mark Woolfe, ex-Head of the Government’s Food Authenticity Programme

Infrastructure Manager Steve Ellison, Science Fellow at LGC

Communications Manager Felicia Golden, Media Relations Officer at LGC

Project Manager: Selvarani Elahi, Deputy Government Chemist at LGC

Email: Secretary@foodauthenticity.uk or Selvarani.Elahi@lgcgroup.com

Web: The Food Authenticity Network is free to join. Sign-up at: foodauthenticity.uk and follow us on Twitter @FAuthenticity



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