This report, which includes essential insights from our members, provides intelligence and pointers for the future of the food sector.
Drawing on the combined expertise of our professional membership, we gathered your insights into the future direction of the food system in an in-depth survey. The results were thoroughly analysed and discussed in a follow-up workshop to interpret and expand the main factors identified in the report. This report will enable readers to envisage how the food sector will likely be impacted in the next three years.
Given this survey took place in the autumn of 2020, COVID-19 and EU Exit coloured many of the themes and topics that were foreseen as potential threats and/or opportunities in the coming three years.
What does this mean for IFST?
The output of this horizon scanning activity provides us with a reference to inform and steer IFST priorities and activities in the coming months and years, so we can empower food professionals to accomplish the transformations needed for the food system to be fit for the future.
We will continue to repeat the horizon scanning exercise every two to three years.
What is in the report?
Key findings from the report point to increasing food system complexity, especially concerning food regulation based on the UK exiting the EU and moving towards more devolved governance. This is likely to impact both the freedom to operate and the application of science and technology innovation by food organisations.
What does this mean for Food Professionals?
Our members agreed that dilution of food standards leading 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.
Concomitant system shocks of trade restrictions, economic downturn, EU exit impacting food standards and an increasingly non-harmonized food legislation landscape, alongside decades of underinvestment in UK enforcement and public analyst capacity and capability were viewed as major threats to ensuring food security for the UK and the food system as a whole.
Conversely, analytical test method capability and digital technologies were seen as opportunities to influence and impact innovation, food safety and regulatory compliance and address issues of food fraud. Limited access to skilled food technical professionals and decreased investment in technical resources by all types of organisations across the UK food system were considered barriers to leveraging these and other technology opportunities.
Given the timing of the initial survey and the sentiment of the respondents, the overwhelming conclusion was one of concern for the future of the food system. However, our members are confident they can continue to meet consumer demand and provide safe and nutritious choices.