The Horizon Scanning Report 2021 asked IFST members to identify the major considerations that will impact the future of the food sector.
Findings in the report pointed toward an increase in food system complexity, especially concerning food regulation based on the UK exiting the EU and moving towards more devolved governance.
The IFST speculated that this complexity would likely impact both the freedom to operate and the application of science and technology innovation by food organisations.
Dilution of food standards
Members also agreed that dilution of food standards that lead to quality issues, inadvertent mistakes and deliberate food fraud could all manifest in the coming three years without deliberate steps being taken to mitigate against such outcomes.
Ensuring food security in the UK would also become harder, with the system under threat from the trade restrictions, economic downturn, EU exit impacting food standards and an increasingly non-harmonised food legislation landscape all at the same time.
This would be made worse by decades of underinvestment in UK enforcement and public analyst capacity and capability.
There were still many opportunities for the food and drink industry to continue to innovate in spite of the above restrictions and limitations, particularly in method test capability and digital technologies.
However, respondents identified limited access to skilled food technical professionals and decreased investment in technical resources by all types of organisations across the UK food system as barriers to leveraging these and other technology opportunities.
Commenting on the report, professor John O’ Brien, chair of IFST’s External Advisory Group, said: “Regular horizon scanning is indispensable to enable a pro-active stance in dealing with new challenges and opportunities.
“IFST has a unique opportunity to use its members as eyes and ears on new developments in food science and technology. The expertise of the Institute has been used to interpret and structure the results of our recent horizon scan to provide a resource both for the membership and wider society.”
Meanwhile, Carol Raithatha, who runs a UK-based food and drink research consultancy specialising in sensory evaluation, offers insights on the latest developments in that field.