August 2021

Boosting Scotland’s Food and Drink industry with measurement science

The food and drink industry is the largest manufacturing sector in Scotland[1], accounting for 31% of its total manufacturing turnover. It contributes £3.9 billion (GVA) to the Scottish economy and is fundamental to many people’s livelihoods.

However, the threat of food fraud and food crime could undermine consumer confidence in the globally recognised quality of Scottish produce.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) estimates a £1.2 billion yearly loss to the UK economy due to food fraud. Counterfeit spirits costed an estimated £25 million to the UK economy in 2016[2] and high-value products such as whisky are highly susceptible. Recognizing the severity of the impact of food fraud and food crime to the Scottish economy, FSS established the Scottish Food Crime and Incident Unit (SFCIU) in 2015 to tackle this important issue.

To ensure food safety and quality, it is effective to measure product and processes throughout the supply chain ensuring regulatory compliance and creating an early-warning system before non-conformities reach distribution lines. A wide array of analytical techniques are employed for food quality assurance, characterising physical, chemical and biological properties of food, in the effort to detect anomalies, such as recently developed in-situ Point-Of-Care (POC) techniques, lateral flow assay (LFA) enhanced with nucleic acid-based and nucleic acid-independent techniques, applied to a variety of foods to detect adulteration. Apart from its benefits to food quality assurance, an improved understanding of production processes via better measurement techniques can boost efficiency, productivity and reliability of Scottish food and drink businesses, increasing its competitiveness in an ever-changing economic landscape.

In support of advancing innovation in measurement research, a centre focussed on advanced measurement research and health translation was launched in Glasgow in December 2019, as an articulation of a strategic continuing partnership between the UK National Measurement Laboratory (NML) hosted at LGC and the University of Strathclyde. The Centre uses innovative and pioneering measurement techniques to boost productivity, safety and consistency of products and processes.

To date, the expertise and services offered through the Centre have helped link companies with expert analytical support and guidance, supporting their ambitious growth plans, such as Angus Horticulture Ltd., an AgriTech and turf nutrition company, in their efforts to measure chitin levels in complex substrates as part of soil remediation efforts. Further examples of companies the Centre has assisted can be viewed at-a-glance through their newly published brochure.

Furthermore, the Centre has further strengthened its links with the Scottish food and drink and health and care sectors by closely aligning with relevant sector organisations, such as Food and Drink Federation Scotland (FDF Scotland) and Digital Health and Care Innovation (DHI) Scotland. Through these initial links, the Centre aims to have a wide reach and establish its reputation as a specialist in innovative measurement solutions, amongst those operating in these fields. 

For companies looking to engage with the Centre, a website has been launched, outlining the Centre’s objectives, services and support offering, current research and, most importantly, how to direct queries and requests to the Centre.

[1] https://www.fdfscotland.org.uk/fdf/business-insights-and-economics/facts-and-stats/

[2] European Union Intellectual Property Office, N. Wajsman, C. A. Burgos, C. Davies, 2016.