Calls for a new approach to food voiced at City Food Lecture 2017
The need for a new approach to food production, and an urgent need for people to reconnect with their food, were the key themes of the City Food Lecture 2017.
The lecture, which took place on 21st February, was prepared by Chris Elliott, the professor of food safety, and founder of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast.
It was delivered by Michael Bell, executive director of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association, after Professor Elliot was forced to withdraw from the evening for personal reasons.
Held at London’s Guildhall, the City Food Lecture focussed on the impact of the complex global food supply system. It highlighted Professor Elliot’s view that this has had massive and negative impact on our ability to understand and indeed care where our food comes from.
The address covered the UK’s growing dependency on importing food and the effects of a £20bn balance of payments agri-food deficit.
Professor Elliot argued that the UK agriculture and food industries are being sacrificed, to keep food prices low, provide consumer choice and maintain political stability.
He also stated his belief that the UK agriculture industry does not compete on a level playing field.
“Having strict regulations is of course important to protect many attributes of a high integrity food system such as workers’ rights, animal welfare and to ensure our food is safe.
“However, in the highly complex global food supply system, to be able to say these standards are met by all exporting countries, is in my opinion, really not possible. Putting it simply, working to lower standards means a lower cost base, and results in products which are much more competitively priced. I also believe we’re not considering the UK’s long-term food security needs.
He added: “We are importing large amounts of food ingredients and commodities into the UK. These are often from complex supply chains. This leaves us highly vulnerable to the growing menace of food fraud, which is being orchestrated more and more frequently by organised criminal networks.”
He argued that using modern computing technologies will allow us to build libraries of ‘food fingerprints’ enabling testing for fraud to be conducted within a few seconds, to help defend the integrity of the world’s food supply system.