Food production is big business and one that is lucrative for the perpetrators of food fraud.
Northern Ireland has one of the safest food supply chains in the world. That is something that consumers – and the 100,000 who work in our £4.4bn food industry – can take comfort in. But we can't afford to be complacent.
Ensuring the integrity of our food supply requires a joined-up approach from industry, government and academia. The Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University is spearheading this.
Our scientists work with the food sector locally and globally to identify and tackle threats to our food supply – and that is the focus of a major international conference at Queen's.
More than 300 delegates are in Belfast for the Food Integrity and Traceability Conference. For the next three days, Queen's will be at the centre of the global food safety and integrity debate.
This is our opportunity to show the world that Northern Ireland punches above its weight in delivering safe, authentic and high-quality food.
At the heart of our success in this area is the strong relationship between academia and industry. Queen's research collaborations with many local and multinational companies help to ensure that our agri-food sector continues to be competitive in a global market.
Together, we are developing new technologies to detect and deter food fraud. Some of which will be showcased at this week's conference and all of which are key to our vision for an international 'food fortress' right here in Northern Ireland, ensuring that everything we import is of the highest quality and that what we sell locally and internationally is safe, nutritious and authentic.
A 'food fortress' that will not only protect, but will secure the future of our agri-food sector and – most importantly – provide all our citizens with food that we can trust.
Professor Chris Elliott is director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University, Belfast