Understanding the Challenges of the food system


Our project  is one of five successful grants funded by The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Food Standards Agency, under the Global Food Security programme of the ‘Understanding the Challenges of the Food System’ call. The call's rationale is that the UK food system is part of an increasingly globalised system, which means it can often be prone to periodic scares and crises. UK consumers will be only too aware of the challenges of the food system which they experience through rising food prices as a result of weather disasters, conflicts and wars and will remember only too well scares of recent years about the provenance of meat products.  The FSA and ESRC  identified an area of mutual interest around the challenges to the UK agri-food system, food safety, food fraud/crime and consumer trust. Both agencies are keen to  support research around the safety and confidence effects of different approaches to food provision, supply chain management and organisation, and how any findings might lead to policy interventions and influence consumer, regulator and industry behaviours. These five projects which will last for two years  (including ours)  have a specific focus in understanding the challenges to the UK food system 


Our project titled "Older people's perceptions and experiences of strengths and vulnerabilities across the UK food system"  particularly engages with the theme of consumer trust (whilst also exploring the other related themes) by focusing on the strengths and vulnerabilities of people acquiring food across the UK food system.


The other projects in this call are:

Making provisions: anticipating food emergencies and assembling the food system

Dr Andrew Donaldson, Newcastle University


This project will look at the ways in which those involved in the production, processing, retail, management and governance of food, anticipate future problems and develop plans to avoid them or deal with them. By investigating these issues the project hopes to be able to draw out realistic lessons for building a more resilient food system.



Food Fraud: A Supply Network Integrated Systems Analysis

Mr Jon Spencer, Manchester University



The aim of this research is to develop a predictive computational approach to modelling the food supply network so that the points where food fraud can occur are identified. By identifying these points of vulnerability to adulteration within the supply chain will allow regulators and retailers to take appropriate action to avoid food fraud. This project will bring together an interdisciplinary team of researchers from analytical sciences, predictive modelling, and law, criminology and business studies; and will contribute to consumer confidence and trust in UK food supply chains. 



Public perceptions of the UK food system: public understanding and engagement, and the impact of crises and scares 

Ms Caireen Roberts, National Centre for Social Research (NatCen)


This project seeks to get a deeper understanding not only of how food supply chains operate, but also of how the public perceives and responds to these issues.  In doing so the research will generate new empirical findings on public perceptions of UK food supply chains, what people's concerns are, and what influences these and how they may be best managed in the future.



Analyses of Food Supply Chains for Risks and Resilience to Food Fraud/Crime 

Professor Christopher Elliott, Queens University Belfast



The project will also explore how other countries deal with issues of food safety and analyse legal law cases as they relate to fraud. Based on an assumption that fraudsters will exploit any intelligence gathering system it will also examine current and potential models of data collection and intelligence sharing and test their vulnerabilities to future fraudulent attacks. This will help to develop a novel data collection sharing system that is more robust and secure.



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This project is Funded by 


The project is a collaborative project by  the University of Hertfordshire between the Centre for Research in Public Health and Community Care and Hertfordshire Business school.