Belfast Telegraph

Building our 'Food Fortress'

By Professor Chris Elliott

We all recall the 2013 horsemeat scandal, when we found out that what was in our burgers and lasagnes was not all it seemed.

This was a shock for many people who have a high level of trust in our food system.

I was one of the very few who was not surprised. Where there is an opportunity to make a quick buck, it will be taken by a small number of cheats.

We move forward 18 months and, guess what, there is a major scandal about dodgy meat happening as you read this.

This time it is in China, with major players such as McDonald's, KFC and Starbucks all caught in the middle of a scam which involves the supply of very old, tainted meat.

Six executives of a multinational meat company have been arrested as part of the investigation.

A team of researchers from Queen's University, which I lead, is embarking on a two-year study to try and understand better how such massive frauds can be perpetrated.

The team will undertake a rigorous study of several globally traded food commodities and determine where vulnerabilities to fraud exist and to try to develop countermeasures to prevent criminal penetration.

While the study will be a global one, the lessons learned will be brought back to our local food industry. We reply heavily on many imported raw materials and our own industry must be constantly on its toes to ensure what has happened elsewhere in the world does not happen on our own doorstep.

We rightfully take great pride in our local food and to support the many jobs this industry creates we are developing the world's leading system – 'The Food Fortress'.

The Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's has been developed to examine and understand what happens elsewhere in the world's food systems to ensure that we in Northern Ireland and our global customer-base retain the trust in all the food we produce.

Professor Chris Elliott is director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University, Belfast

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