Fighting Food Fraud

To intercept future food scandals in Asia and the world, innovations like blockchain and artificial intelligence could prevent fraud and reduce anxiety about what’s really on our plates.

AsianScientist (Mar. 30, 2022)  – Like falling dominos, no player in a supply chain ever stands in isolation, and any bottleneck that emerges at the weakest link can topple an entire network. When COVID-19 struck and international borders shuttered, nations that rely on food imports like Singapore saw the price of consumer goods skyrocket due to the rising costs of shipping food from overseas to local shelves. Meanwhile, other countries that heavily export agricultural products like Malaysia suffered significant losses as produce piled up and rotted away, barricaded from reaching consumers abroad.

Amid the pressure to deliver an adequate food supply, regulatory efforts to monitor product authenticity took a backseat, making the food system more vulnerable to fraud and adulteration. During the pandemic, supply chain disruptions and the shift to online shopping further pushed food sourcing and delivery into the spotlight. However, these issues have always been around likely due to a lack of consumer awareness and stringent testing procedures.

In 2008, China’s infamous milk scandal made international headlines when several dairy manufacturers diluted their infant formulas, adding a chemical called melamine to compensate for the product’s lowered protein contents. Nearly 300,000 children fell ill after consuming the contaminated milk and over 50,000 were hospitalized from kidney and urinary tract damage.

As the world opens back up and more consumers shift to online shopping, maintaining trust in global and local food supply chains is paramount. Researchers and industry leaders in Asia are now leading the charge to develop foolproof innovations for ensuring food integrity from farm to fork. Here’s a look at some exciting new technologies on the menu, involving artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain systems.

Erinne Ong reports on basic scientific discoveries and impact-oriented applications, ranging from biomedicine to artificial intelligence. She graduated with a degree in Biology from De La Salle University, Philippines.

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