How can food companies ensure food security and food safety

How can food companies ensure food security and food safety

I recently read an interesting article in Food Manufacture UK that invites all of us involved in food production to reflect.

Most importantly, when referring to food security, do we really know what it involves?

It is generally defined as the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food.

It is a different concept from food safety but there is an interdependency between both: if the food is not safe, food security is not relevant, and if there’s no food security, food safety is secondary or simply irrelevant.

The last years have revealed significant vulnerabilities in global supply chains, especially with shortages of certain food items, first due to border closures and limitation of activities due to the Covid pandemic, then the war in Ukraine, and energy and transport price increases just to mention a few.

All this is leading to an increase in food insecurity and in many cases to a complete lack of availability of food, especially in the poorer part of the world.

Climate change is another reason for the lack of food security.  There is no food if there is no fertile soil, there will be less food if we have less water and if the temperature increases, certain crops will disappear, all challenging our agricultural supply chains in multiple ways.

In my opinion, the keywords to tackle these challenges are localization and decentralization.

I will never stop insisting on this, and the reality is proving us right again and again. Since we implemented our first localized food production hub more than a decade ago in India and now have deployed a network of multi-localized production hubs already on 4 continents and growing, we are successfully helping food companies to reformulate and optimize their existing food products’ cost and quality, adapting them to local ingredients availabilities, optimizing their supply chains and even by helping them from idea to market launch of new and sustainable food products faster, safer and much cheaper than ever before. The new keywords today are speed and agility.

Localization of production is key to producing more efficiently and at a lower global cost. It empowers more value creation in local communities, contributes to reducing gas emissions, minimizes risks, and ensures the supply of healthy and affordable food and nutrition in sustainable global supply chains for more people in more places.

But food shortages also create important collaterals, especially putting food safety at risk.

When some food products become scarcer, their value increases and fraudulent activity increases alarmingly like in olive oil, honey, spices, and many other food products.

According to experts in quality control, a risk-based approach should be used to define the amount of testing to carry out. Depending on the track record and confidence of the supplier, they recommend more or fewer lab analyses.

But these same experts also recognize that external lab testing is time-consuming and costly, and therefore many times the number of samples analyzed is limited. Instead, testing in-house can ensure full control of the entire production process, and many technologies like Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) are already invented, however still heavily underutilized despite their proven results in the food industry.

We at Blendhub were pioneers in developing and adopting Chemometric Brain, a NIR-based software that allows fast and effective analysis of all raw materials and final products without the need for specialized technicians or large investments into our supply chains and global network of food production hubs. Today we use this technology to control every single batch entering, and final blended product leaving our hubs anywhere in the world. Chemometric Brain is today an independent company serving food industries in Europe, LATAM, and Africa.

As mentioned, re-formulation must be considered key to addressing the scarcity of traditionally available ingredients or ingredients being transported from far away.

Alternative and locally available ingredients should always be considered for product development, especially plant-based ingredients, or millet, which in addition to being nutritious grow in harsh and dry conditions, save water, and increase yield, and should therefore be a growing source of food.

Also exploring new ways of using surplus fresh food is a way to tackle food shortages and foster sustainable food production.

Thousands of tonnes of fresh and edible surplus are wasted every single day in the world and collaborations like the one we have been working on for more than a year with Essence Food in the development of new healthy, dried, powdered, and nutritious products from surplus food is a good example of accelerating food safety and food security through partnerships.

As you can see in Blendhub we are trying to explore solutions in many different manners to increase food security and food safety in many parts of the world but it is also absolutely clear to us that we need many more value-aligned people and companies that believe what we believe and are ready to collaborate in a transparent and accountable manner to make the accelerated impact needed to make healthy and affordable food and nutrition available to all people in all places.