Ireland: PhD to ensure safer food supply chains

Most people will be familiar with the horse-meat scandal. Could this have been foreseen? Could it have been prevented? In what way was it different to other food safety scandals? Who made money from it? What are the chances of something like this happening again? What can be done to prevent similar incidences in the future? Answers to questions such as these are the focus of a 4-year PhD project that will be funded by Teagasc and Musgrave and awarded by Cork University Business School at UCC. In essence, this project aims to protect the integrity of the Irish agri-food system and respond proactively to the challenges presented by the growing complexity of global food supply chains.

Ray Bowe, Musgrave; Dr Maeve Henchion, Teagasc; and Dr Seamus O'Reilly UCC announce collaborative funding for a 4-year Walsh Fellowship on Irish food integrity.

The project will focus on identifying factors that lead to breaches of food integrity, understanding the motivation of perpetrators and highlighting gaps in policy, legislation and technology. The solutions to these findings will be designed for deployment at company, industry and food system levels through consultation with relevant stakeholders.

The PhD project will be co-supervised by Dr Maeve Henchion, Teagasc and Dr Seamus O’Reilly UCC, with advisory input from Dr John Spink of the Food Fraud Initiative, Michigan State University, USA. Dr Henchion said: “Ultimately, this project will provide the knowledge base to ensure that Ireland has the appropriate policies and strategies in place to ensure that all supply chain actors and consumers are protected from any potential deliberate adulteration of food products”.

“We can learn a lot from examples of good practice internationally but we need to understand the context to adapt them for use in Ireland. This project will help us to do this. It will help us to ensure we are not reinventing the wheel,” highlights Dr Seamus O’Reilly.

This project builds on an ongoing programme of collaborative work involving Teagasc, UCC, Musgrave and Michigan State University. In particular, Musgrave has worked with MSU since 2014 in the practical application of food vulnerability assessments that identify and address possible supply chain fraud risks. The outcome has enhanced authenticity and confidence in the products supplied to Musgrave’s retailers and consumers. Dr Spink states; “I am looking forward to working with Irish food companies, both retailers and manufacturers, and the researchers and agencies that support them, to ensure the integrity of supply chains involving the highly acclaimed Irish food industry”.

Commenting on the initiative, Ray Bowe, Head of Food Safety & Quality at Musgrave stated; “We are proud of the support we give Irish producers and are committed to protecting the integrity of food produced in Ireland for both domestic and international consumers. Through our Food Authenticity Programme we are delighted to collaborate with Teagasc, UCC and Michigan State University and look forward to supporting the project.”

For more information:
Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow R93 XE12
Tel: +353 59 917 0200
Fax: +353 59 918 2097

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