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Case Study: Food Fortress

Industry and academia can play a key role in coming together to ensure the integrity of the food chain. In this article we will use the Food Fortress programme as an example of how different actors work together to ensure the integrity of the food chain.

Food fortress is an industry wide program of strategic sampling and testing whereby food businesses and universities co-operate to reduce the risk from the principal contaminants which threaten this chain. As a result, the sector improves the safety and security of the food chain.

The Animal Feed Sector

The animal feed sector in Northern Ireland produced 2.6 million tonnes of compound feed in 2018. The feed industry is dependent on international trade in feed materials which are imported and distributed to local manufacturers.

In Northern Ireland alone, there are over 2 million tonnes of animal feed materials landed at our ports each year. This international trade is constantly driven by factors including, weather, currency movements, trade wars and political instability all of which influence the cost and availability of the material. Some of the popular ingredients used by millers in the region include:

  • Corn from North or South America, Europe and the Black Sea
  • Soy beans from South America
  • Wheat from Europe and Ukraine
  • Maize from North America
  • Palm oils from Malaysia and Indonesia

The quality and safety of animal feed is high on the agenda for feed millers; and the sector recognises their responsibility to provide safe and high quality products for the livestock sector. As a result, the animal feed sector works together through the Food Fortress network to ensure they can identifiy threats and contaminants to the food chain and deal with them before they impact on animal welfare, or indeed, the human food chain. This gives the region a level of quality and assurance and safety control unparalleled anywhere in the world.

In order to ensure this, the network partners work alongside Queen’s University, Belfast and other researchers who continue to work towards developing more advanced analytical techniques to widen the scope of testing and help identify the most effective mitigation.

The sampling program now covers 79 compound feed manufacturers with 5 million tonnes of compound feed production covered by the surveillance program, with around 80 samples passing through the system every month. As a result, the sector has amassed a substantial database of results and gives a clear understanding of the contamination risks facing the industry.

This case study demonstrates that it is not just enforcement and inspection bodies that are testing to ensure the integrity of the food chain, but also university and the sector are coming together to implement their own control measures. Moreover, it also showcases that there are many responsible players in the industry who are committed to and taking all due diligence to assure there food and feed are safe.

What we would like you to do

The Food Fortress Project is not only implemented for the Animal Feed sector in Northern Ireland, but efforts are also in place to use rapid-reactive proactive risk management using a combination of technologies such as predictive analytics and multi-analytical tests to test raw materials and ingredients across Europe.

  • Does the Food Fortress programme increase your trust in the food chain?
  • How do you think the programme can help in a crisis situation such as Covid-19?

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This article is from the free online course:

Understanding Food Supply Chains in a Time of Crisis

EIT Food