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International conference puts food safety under the microscope

As food scares, such as the recent detection of dioxins in eggs from Germany, become more frequent, the public should be reassured that advances in science are helping reduce the risks from eating contaminated foods.

That's according to Professor Chris Elliott from Queen's University Belfast. The University, in partnership with safefood, is set to showcase the latest international developments in food safety and traceability at a major conference in March.

The Food Integrity and Traceability Conference will take place at Queen's from 21-24 March. The event will welcome scientists, food standards regulators and food producers from around 32 countries, who will share their expertise in delivering safe and authentic foods to consumers.

Professor Elliott, from the Centre for Assured, Safe and Traceable Food at Queen's School of Biological Sciences, said: "The number of food scares has increased significantly in the past decade. Imported foods found to contain dangerous contaminants such as drugs, dyes and bacterial toxins are being reported more frequently.

"These scares and product recalls can have a major impact on the public and the agri-food industry. From health risks, to financial penalties and the loss of consumer confidence, the effects can be far reaching and, as shown by the recent egg dioxin scare, they often transcend international borders.

"Scientists at Queen's and around the world are developing new ways of detecting contaminants and reducing the risks to consumers and the agri-food industry. As public demand for safe and authentic foods continues to increase, consumers should be reassured by these scientific advances many of which will be discussed here at Queen's during the conference.

"The conference is attracting huge interest from those involved in agri-business around the world. High calibre international speakers will discuss a wide range of topics ranging from improvements in feed and food contamination identification, and methods for on-site analysis of food on farms and slaughterhouses, to the potential role of nanomaterials in food safety, and innovations in combating food fraud."

The Food Integrity and Traceability Conference is jointly organised by Queen's and safefood, the North-South body responsible for the promotion of food safety on the island of Ireland. Dr Gary Kearney, Director, Food Science, safefood said: "This conference will highlight emerging trends and challenges in food traceability as well as the latest methodologies for controlling food safety risks, which can have real benefits for consumers on the island of Ireland."

Among the highlights will be Professor Garry Lee from the University of Western Australia and TSW Analytical P/L, who will present a new traceability system being trialled in the Australian pork industry. Following the Foot and Mouth crisis and the Irish pork contamination scare of 2008 and 2009, which highlighted the lack of traceability in pork production, this could have particular lessons for the pork industry in the UK and Ireland.

As the demand for organic food continues to grow, Dr Simon Kelly from the University of East Anglia will present some of the latest techniques in determining the origins of food and whether or not those labelled 'organic' are truly organically produced.

Dr Anthony Potter from Queen's will share his research into product recalls and their consequences to the food industry, while Owen Brennan from Devenish Nutrition will discuss the controversial EU ban on GM crops and its negative impact on ensuring a sustainable EU food production system.


Contact: Anne-Marie Clarke
Queen's University Belfast

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