The next chapter
With technology advancing at a rate of knots, it would be easy to think we’ve reached the pinnacle of its evolution, but the journey’s only just started, as our experts explain in our latest issue of New Food, out now.
I fondly remember writing my first welcome for New Food, around three and a half years ago. My journey as Editor has been an exciting one and it truly has been a privilege to work alongside countless industry experts who have dedicated their time to provide insightful content for our community.
This trip down memory lane does have a purpose. Issue 5 2022 is to be my last as Editor of New Food as I move onto pastures new. I hand over the editorship to the current Deputy Editor, Joshua Minchin; I am sure all of you will give him the warm welcome that I received. And with that, I want to take this opportunity to thank the New Food community for all the wonderful years we have had together. It has been lovely to see it grow and become even more vocal – New Food really does belong to you!
It is quite apt that Issue 5 looks to the future, as many of our contributing experts take the opportunity to highlight the path ahead for food safety.
On page 38 of the latest edition, in what I believe is our biggest ‘Guide to Testing’ focus to date, Dr Matthew Gilmour discusses the new opportunities for monitoring and responding to the microbiota of foods using metagenomic sequencing. While on page six, we hear how leaders like Cornell University, the University of Georgia and Mars Inc. are inspiring the next generation of food safety researchers. I was also offered the opportunity to interview Conor Butler, Director of FBA Laboratories (see page 72), and witness his brilliant food testing acumen, as he painted a picture of the future testing challenges awaiting us.
We also find out about the growth opportunities for the dairy sector; invaluable insight is provided on page 28 by Knowledge Bank’s Amanda Brown and also on page 32 by Ecotone’s Klaus Arntz as they highlight key trends and make their forecasts.
When looking ahead, it would be unwise of us to focus purely on what’s to come; moving onwards is also a good chance to reflect, to assess what lessons we have learnt and how we can improve things in the future.
Erik Millstone does a great job of this in his article about life after Brexit in the UK (see page 12), while in another feature, Bert Popping (beginning page 20) examines the way our views have evolved around gene editing as we progress towards wider commercialisation of this new technique.
As Alec Kyriakides said in his keynote address at our recent London-based event, The Food Safety Conference: “Anything new brings with it emerging risks.”
Indeed, historically, any major societal or technological shift has always brought about new hazards. Kyriakides gave several key examples in his speech, including the emergence of zoonotic disease as humans moved to intensive farming processes; the industrial revolution, which led to new ways of processing and preserving and, in turn, new contaminants; and the advent of novel channels (ie, new ways of purchasing food) which can create opportunities for fraud.
From what I am hearing, it’s evident how many in the industry are pushing for solutions such as cultured meat, vertical farms and precision fermentation, to name a few technologies. And it’s only a matter of time before we see these novel ways of working become more popular and commercially widespread. But there will be considerations we must account for in relation to their risks and management. Equally, as Kyriakides pointed out, we will also see a wave of reuseable plastics hitting the market, as we drive towards ‘doing the right thing’. As a result of perpetual recycling, we are likely to witness a spike in low-level contaminations.
These risks do not mean we should stop innovating; we need innovation to help us solve the challenges we are facing, such as climate change. But we should proceed with caution, listen to the science, and ensure the food testing partners we’re collaborating with are top notch.
We don’t know what’s around the corner and that can be both an exciting and scary prospect.
New Food – it’s been a pleasure.
Bethan Grylls, Editor