This theme addresses the major global challenges of food authenticity, safety and fraud, with researchers encompassing wide expertise across chemical-contaminant detection, food microbiology and food-systems traceability and transparency.
Researchers also investigate the health risks posed by contamination and seek to develop novel approaches to pre-emptively mitigate risk. In recent years, this theme has undergone significant expansion, particularly in increasing capacity in mass spectrometry, strengthening the ability to develop innovative approaches. Its ASSET lab is listed as a ‘Centre of Expertise’ by the Food Authenticity Network, a UK government initiative. The lab has also been awarded industry accreditation ISO/IEC 17025 for authenticity testing of herbs and spices.
Theme members have demonstrated major industrial, economic and societal impact, eg., following the aftermath of the 2013 horsemeat scandal, theme lead Professor Chris Elliott OBE conducted the UK Government review, the Elliott Report, leading to a rapid expansion in food-authenticity activity at IGFS and indeed across the UK. Since then, this theme has worked closely with industry to develop risk-management tools and traceability systems to help improve food integrity, nationally and internationally.
Consisting of 16 academic staff (1 ECR), 23 Post-doc Research Fellows and 28 PhD students, the team has attracted over £15M research income since 2014, including £6M from H2020 and BBSRC. It hosts the UKRI-BBSRC DTP 'FoodBioSystems' (£2M IGFS, 2020-28); the EU MONPLAS Innovation training network (€6M, 2020-23); the EU-China-Safe project (€6M, 2017-22); and most recently was awarded the Agilent Thought Leaders Award (£1.5M, 2021-24).
This project, led by Professor Chris Elliott OBE, investigated a food-poisoning crisis in humanitarian aid to Africa.
In 2019 the UN World Food Programme suspended global distribution of its ‘Super Cereal’ after five people died and hundreds were hospitalised in Uganda. The IGFS team identified the cause as highly toxic tropane alkaloids in the cereal. Using mass and molecular spectrometry, chemometrics and other analytical chemistry, Elliott and team traced the outbreaks back through complex, international supply chains to the source of contamination. This meant all Super Cereal which didn’t share this supply chain – $15M worth – could be safely released back into circulation.
Bangladesh has the highest-per-capita rice consumption rate globally but a large proportion of its population is under-nourished.
With funding from BBSRC GCRF, Professor Andrew Meharg and Dr Caroline Meharg are evaluating ways to improve the nutrient content of rice, while also reducing arsenic, cadmium and bacterial load. Most rice in Bangladesh is consumed after parboiling – raw rice is soaked, heated, dried, dehusked and then polished to its white state – with many nutrients lost in the process. This study is investigating alternative approaches, via optimizing the parboiling and milling processes, to enhance nutritional value, eliminate toxins and simultaneously increase yields.
Nutrition and health claims on food packaging (low fat, high protein etc) can aid consumers with purchasing and consumption decisions.
However, previous research has found that the presence of claims may sometimes have unintended consequences, for example increased consumption. Experiments, surveys, and focus groups are being used across the island of Ireland to investigate how nutrition and health claims affect consumer choices, perceptions and consumption. The study, funded by safefood and led by Professor Moira Dean, also examines the impact of additional information on food traceability, authenticity and sustainability through the use of QR codes.
Research Expertise in Food Integrity
- Professor Chris Elliott
- Professor Andy Meharg
- Professor Katrina Campbell
- Professor Lisa Connolly
- Professor Mark Mooney
- Professor Rudi Krska
- Professor Paula Bourke
- Professor Saskia Van Ruth
- Professor Lynne Vanhaecke
- Professor Paul Brereton
- Professor Seamus Fanning
- Dr Cuong Cao
- Dr Caroline Meharg
- Dr Tassos Koidis
- Dr Chen Situ
- Dr Paul Williams