The complex feed and food supply chains pose many serious issues and risks to the consumer. Contamination by chemical and microbiological threats can occur at many critical control points. Additional risks to the safety of what we eat and posed by factors such as climate change, environmental pollution and fraud. The research is funded by many government agencies (local, national and international), Research Councils, European Commission and safefood.
The early detection of natural and manmade chemical contaminants and harmful bacteria in fresh water and marine environments, farm animals, animal feed materials, many types of foods and environmental samples is one of the primary drivers of the food safety research group. A wide range of biological and physicochemical tools are used in the development and validation of robust methods to assist in detecting and managing multiple risks. The use of in vitro bioassays in horizon scanning for emerging contaminants and elucidating their mechanism of action is also employed. These procedures are transferred to industry, regulators and academia through a number of mechanisms to ensure their maximum uptake. Dissemination of research is performed using many avenues such as the safefood all-island networks, industry workshops and peer review publications.
To try and guarantee what we eat is actually what we think it is has become an enormous challenge. Due to globalisation of the feed and food supply chains the ability for fraudulent activity to be undertaken has risen enormously. Research within the Institute has centred on using ‘food fingerprinting techniques’ which can be used by the major stakeholders to test for signs of food adulteration in a number of foods such as palm oil, olive oil, honey etc.
The ASSET Technology Centre
The food safety and food integrity research within the institute is supported by a world class technology centre. Suites of technologies based on biosensor, spectroscopic and spectrometric platforms are available to conduct cutting edge research.