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Hello there. My name is Chris Elliott. I’m professor of food safety at Queen’s University, Belfast. I’m also the founder of the Institute for Global Food Security, and we do a huge amount of work here in terms of looking at the integrity of the global food supply system. Look at all of those things that can go wrong in terms of contamination, accidental or deliberate, find out how it happens, and then tried to stop it happening in the future. The asset lab was something that I established, my goodness, nearly 10 years ago. And that was to get as many cutting-edge technologies as was possible, into a technology centre.
That we can investigate all of those things that might be in our food, or animals feed, that shouldn’t be there. In terms of the sensor work that we are doing, we work on laboratory-based equipment. But we’re even more interested in very small, portable, remote sensing technologies. Here’s one in my hand now, and believe it or not, that’s a fantastic analytical tool. If you look at my hand, I’ve got grains of rice there. And what I can do– I can use these sensing technologies to measure many, many different things that are in that rice. Is the rice genuine? Is it fake? Have there been chemicals added to it?
Many, many different questions we can answer based on that type of analytical tool. Quite remarkable. Our world food supply system is unbelievably complicated. Often we don’t know who produces our food. We don’t know where it comes from. But we are in the age– the era of digitization. So supply chains are being digitised. And what we are working at is that we can take measurements with these types of technologies, ensure the food is safe, and we can get that data uploaded into the digital supply chains that are now in operation in many parts of the world. So it doesn’t matter where you consume that food.
That there will be a record that it has been checked and tested to make sure it’s safe and good to eat. An example of the research that we’ve conducted within the asset centre was, we uncovered quite massive fraud in the world’s herb and spice industry. A kilogramme of saffron is worth more than a kilogramme of gold, OK? So if you start to cut that with something that looks like saffron and isn’t, can you imagine the amount of money that you would make? We have looked at many, many different types of foodstuffs. We have looked at meat, we’ve looked at fish, herbs, spices. Wherever we look for fraud, we find it.
And we are developing the science and technology that can detect the fraud, even though fraudsters can be pretty smart people. And what we are doing is we’re using science and technology to make sure that the food that we eat, right across the world, is safe, wholesome, and authentic.

In this video, Professor Chris Elliott from the Institute for Global Food Security introduces the ASSET Lab at Queens University, Belfast.

What we would like you to do

Please watch the video by Prof. Elliott. You will learn more abour food sensing technologies for monitoring food authenticity, particulalry for spices.

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Revolutionising the Food Chain with Technology

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