Kingston team finds food contamination hotspots

Software developed by UK programmers to analyse trends in the massive number of food safety alerts generated around the world has highlighted China as an increasing source of contaminated goods.

Currently, different countries operate a range of food monitoring systems, with a small number such as the US and EU states responsible for the majority of data. Developing countries tend to have less sophisticated measures for checking imports, but the result is tens of thousands of food alerts each year that need to be filtered to highlight where to place concentrated efforts.

Scientists at Kingston University in south-west London have responded by creating a computer programme that monitors trends in food alerts to spot patterns of traffic in faulty goods and highlights countries that trade in and are responsible for detecting faulty foodstuffs. A special feature is the ability to generate a global snapshot by instantly analysing thousands of individual reports. This, the researchers claim, identifies the growing role of China in production of faulty foodstuffs.

“New systems are required to provide coherent, real time and user-friendly analyses of alerts,” said Kingston’s Professor Declan Naughton. “Having a global picture of the trafficking pattern of faulty foodstuffs is very important to researchers and policy makers alike. This new programme is the first step toward this ambitious goal.”

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