Professor Chris Elliott, who was appointed by the Government to investigate the horsemeat scandal in 2013, warned that a multitude of factors including Brexit and global warming meant the nation’s food supply was potentially less secure than at any other point in the past 70 years.
Elliott, who is the founder of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, issued the warning at the Food Fraud, Culture & Modern Catering Processes conference in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.
Real and immediate threat
He also warned that the UK was not prepared for the many challenges that Brexit would pose to the safe supply and production of food, including pub food. Compromises on food-safety standards was a real and immediate threat.
A lack of action on global warming was also leading to a rise in incidents of disease and drought, already devastating some food commodities on which the UK has come to rely.
Increased price pressure on food suppliers continues to increase the risk for food fraud as farmers and producers struggle to meet the lower prices demanded by retailers, he added.
Futureproof food supply
Elliott said: “As a country we need to seriously begin considering how we ‘futureproof’ the integrity of our food supply in the face of the challenges coming in the next few years.
“To understand what we are eating, where it comes from and how it was produced are of fundamental importance to regaining trust. To reconnect with our food system should be considered a national imperative.
“We have made good progress on the issue of food fraud since the publication of the Elliott Review into the Integrity and Assurance of Food Supply Networks report in 2014.
“However although food fraud remains a priority to those of us concerned with the integrity of our food supply, we need to be versatile and responsive in how we deal with other, potentially greater, challenges to come, especially around Brexit and global warming.”