Research by The University of Manchester into food fraud is one of five projects to be awarded grants by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Identifying the points of vulnerability to adulteration within the supply chain will allow regulators and retailers to take appropriate action to avoid food fraud.
It will involve an interdisciplinary team from analytical sciences, predictive modelling, law, criminology and business studies.
Jon Spencer, senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Manchester, will develop a predictive computational approach to modelling supply chains so points where food fraud can occur are identified.
“The focus will be on the pig meat supply chain and we will look at the model of the supply chain and if it works we think it will be transferrable,” he told FoodQualityNews.com.
“We will overlay social network analysis and crime mapping to look at where, who and network together. This will give us information on the supply chain variables that affect functionality.”
Consumer trends around the horse meat scandal were ‘interesting’ as it created an issue of trust for the food industry which works on the basis of consumer trust and people started to feel they couldn’t trust what they were eating.
However, Spencer said their project would contribute to consumer confidence and trust in UK food supply chains.
“Climate affects food supply chain even for the production of beef, a climate disadvantage has an effect for the harvest of cereals, the price increases due to shortage, then animal feed increases because it relies on cereals to feed the animals and eventually the price of beef increase due to knock on effects,” he said.
“Something that happened two years previously could significantly affect some part of the chain down the line.”
Grants will start from 1 September and will last for a period of 24 months.
Manchester University, Queens University Belfast, Newcastle University, University of Hertfordshire and NatCen Social Research will share £1.87m.
Spencer said the model would identify the variables and the chance of vulnerability to help industry and regulators manage risk.
“We will develop an approach that allows regulators, retailers and producers to identify points of risk – it is about supply chain management and dynamics and this is complex as it changes as the risk changes,” he said.
“By analysing the supply chain and modelling change variables at each node and from a criminology point of view we can say whether it is theoretical or a real opportunity.
“It can be used as a ‘what if’ forecasting tool if there has been a poor harvest climate you can run different scenarios.”