Founder of the Institute for Global Food Security and Professor of Food Safety at Queens University Belfast, Professor Chris Elliott, will be speaking at the 2018 Oxford Farming Conference about the controversial issue of sustaining global food supply to the rapidly growing world population. A brilliant and eloquent speaker for the Science Lecture, he will challenge the audience with probing questions and ideas about the future of global food security and the role we have to play in it.
“This is an enormous opportunity for me to speak to so many stakeholders in our agri-food industry,” says Professor Elliott. “What I have to say might make some people feel uncomfortable, but I think that’s a good thing as there are huge challenges to the integrity of our global food supply system. How do you feed nine billion people with food that’s safe, authentic and nutritious?”
Professor Elliott, who led the 2013 UK Government’s independent review of food systems following the horsemeat scandal, explains that the integrity of our national food system is under more threat that at any time since World War II. With projections suggesting we need to produce more food over the next 50 years than we have in the last 500, there is huge pressure on the system that can mean food is being produced without consideration for its nutritional value, and, in other cases, for the human rights of those producing the food.
“Supply chains have become very complex, and every time there is a transaction, there is another opportunity to cheat. The competitive nature of the food business means that operators work on very small profit margins and corners are being cut – there’s no doubt about it – in relation to safety, quality and integrity.”
The challenge to increase production is set against a backdrop of climate change, limited water supply and huge waste. Addressing waste alone would feed many more people, says Professor Elliott:
Brought up on a farm in County Antrim and having published over 350 peer-read papers on food security, Professor Elliott knows both ends of the spectrum. In his role as Director of the ASSET Technology Centre, a centre of excellence within the Institute of Global Food Security, established to detect contaminations and food fraud across the entire food chain quickly and cost-effectively, he is collaborating daily with agri-food businesses. Commenting on the recent investigation into the 2 Sisters Food Group following concerns about its chicken processing standards, Professor Elliott highlights an increasing challenge to food integrity:
"It is my view that the environmental health services in the UK have been cut to the bone and cut to such an extent that things like this are probably happening more frequently than they should.”
He is the Guest Speaker for this year’s Science Lecture, sponsored by Burges Salmon, on Thursday 4th January.
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