Tag Archives: Transparency

Top 3 foods with hightest environmental footprint

Climate change is getting real, and agriculture is one of the largest sources of heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide.

But when it comes to their “carbon footprint,” not all foods are created equal. So here is a Top 3 with the highest carbon footprint, and a visual overview of all foods with the highest carbon footprint. This is so you are aware, and have this in mind, when you put your food in the basket. An easy way to bypass this, is to buy as local as possible.

Top 3

  1.  39.2 kg of CO2.                                                                                                       You thought is was beef, but sorry lamb lovers. Eating a kilo of lamb is equivalent to driving about 90 miles or 145 km! In the US a massive 50% of lamb is imported, so a lot of the carbon footprint comes from shipping. But the main contribution is the animals’ digestion, their feed, manure management and other farm operations.
  2. 27 kg of CO2
    The sinner we all know (or should know) is beef. Cows produce a lot of methane (a potent greenhouse gas), and also require a lot of water and land. Especially in South America, a lot of rainforest have been eliminated, to make way for huge farms for the never ending urge for for beef.
  3. 13.5 kg of CO2
    And maybe the joker here, is cheese. Cheese is also a major CO2 contributor. Only a small fraction of cheese is imported to the US, but that accounts for half of all the carbon emissions from cheese.

 

Source: https://bit.ly/2Ek9hPL

 

Sources:

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-top-10-foods-with-the-biggest-environmental-footprint-2015-9?r=UK&IR=T&IR=T

https://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/a-meat-eaters-guide-to-climate-change-health-what-you-eat-matters/climate-and-environmental-impacts/

Book: Our Food Our Future – Eat better, waste less, share more; (2017) Alan Watkins & Matt Simister.

Photo by Leon Ephraïm on Unsplash

Bologna – A 360 degree focus on food at FICO World

Me (Kristoffer) and my girlfriend, Nina, had planned our easter vacation destination. Italy! Visiting a few places in Tuscany, and Bologna a bit more north-east. We wanted to visit Bologna, due to being the “food capital” of Italy. And we were not disappointed.

We ate at many different restaurants during our short stay, and tried to eat out, as much as possible. One restaurant we highly can recommend is Ristorante Pizzeria La Brace, where I had their delicious swordfish and Nina had fresh pasta with a variety of seafood. Fantastic meal!

Besides all the restaurants, we also visited the local food markets on Via Pescherie Vecchie and Mercato delle Erbe. I also wanted to visit the newly built FICO Eataly World, a agri-food park few kilometers outside of central Bologna. We had no idea what to expect, since I stumbled upon it when googling “what to do in Bologna”.

It was a massive place, with a combination of food stalls, playground, learning areas, food courses, animals and supermarket. You can easily get lost in all the lovely smells and colors of the rainbow, when walking through the wine area, or the olive oil area.

I can go on and on, but what I like about this place is the 360 degree focus on food. It started with plants, bees and animals outside the building. Here you can, e.g. read about the animals, learn where you food comes from, what it eats and so on (mostly for kids, I guess 😃). Then you walk inside and see the produce in action. Most of the food shops have mini-production sites at FICO, where you can, just like in a zoo, watch workers make the products, which you can taste and buy a few feet away. I applaud this form of transparency!

This was also the same for the restaurants, where you look directly into the kitchen and watch the chefs do their magic. Many of the restaurants also had a “how it’s made”, either on the menu or as big illustrations on the wall. Again, to inform the visitors of what they are putting in their mouths.

Part of the experience was also interactive installations about food, courses on food, and as the picture below shows, talks about different aspects of food production.

So their tagline of “You have seen them being made, you have tasted them in our restaurants… why don’t you take them home with you?”, holds true, at least the first and second part, as we didn’t buy anything, since we had to drive to Piombino in the afternoon. All in all a very interesting place to visit, so if you are interested in food do spend some hours at FICO World.

Ciao!

Interview – Founder of SensoMind, Rufus Blas

We love the new technologies here at MyFoodTrust, of course in relation to improving the current lack of transparency. Last week we talked to Daniel from Bext360, and their use of blockchain and AI. Today we focus on AI again, which we find super interesting as a tool for food transparency, so it was a no brainer to do a interview with Rufus from SensoMind.

Read here, how SensoMind have applied AI to create a system to detect anomalies in food products and what role AI will play in creating transparency in food supply chains in the future.

Can you start with telling us a little about yourself and SensoMind?Hi, my name is Rufus. I’ve been involved in AI ever since I studied at MIT in 2004 at their Artificial Intelligence Lab. I hold both a PhD and an MBA and have a passion for innovation management and entrepreneurship. Previously I worked a lot with perception for self-driving vehicles in agriculture. I founded Sensomind with my partner in 2016 in order to democratize AI and get it out to the masses.  We’ve built our own set of tools around top AI products such as Googles Tensorflow which we thought at the time were too much targetting data scientists and not enough the engineers that are out in the field today. Our core competencies lie in analysis of complex sensor data. This is available in abundance in manufacturing so is one reason why we have gotten into this industry.

Rufus Blas
Sounds interesting, but can Sensomind’s AI technology be applied on food?
We’ve been working extensively with food manufacturing customers where our technology can be used for quality monitoring and sorting of food products. Most of our solutions are based on optical sensors (Such as cameras and multi-spectral imaging). Vision technology has been around in the food industry for 10-20 years but it’s been very difficult to apply it to food products with organic shapes and high variety. Examples include monitoring breads, meat, and fruits & vegetables. With AI you can teach the system just be showing it examples which opens up for completely new applications. An example can be automating the cutting of meat.  The price of a final product has a large influence on the cutting being done correctly and it can be very difficult using traditional computer vision to recognize exactly where to cut.
And in relation to that, can Sensomind’s technology help tackle the problem of, e.g. food contamination or unapproved enhancements/additives in food?
So we have a system to detect anomalies which can for example detect contaminants. In the food industry we have used this to detect contaminants such as bone fragments, metal, plastic, and other objects which shouldn’t be there. Unlike a human operator, our system never tires. Unapproved additives is difficult to detect using traditional color cameras so here we work with spectrometers or multi-spectral cameras. Using traditional computer vision an engineer would normally sit and try to make a model for different additives based on a pre-conceived notion of what to look for. AI allows a more statistic and data-driven approach which reduces the chance of unapproved additives making it through the production undetected.
In your opinion, what role does new technologies, e.g. AI, play in creating transparency in food supply chains?
Supply chains are notoriously difficult to model because of large amounts of often poor quality or missing data. AI is really good at crunching numbers and extracting meaningful informations from poor quality and multi-source data (including images, text, numbers, etc). AI can help piece together the information about specific products which would be impossible to model by hand.
If someone was interested in learning more about the work you do, where can the find more? 
The obvious thing would be to contact me. Check out our website (sensomind.com). We have a number of international projects going so location is often not a big issue.
A big thank you to Rufus, and great to hear of the use of AI in the food supply chain. Here at MyFoodTrust, we are always looking for how new technologies can enhance transparency and traceability.
So if you know of any startups, please let me know!
Have a great day.
© MyFoodTrust 2018

Farm animal welfare & transparency. So call me blockchain? Maybe

This article is written by Dan McGlynn:

Sustainability & animal welfare – the power of transparency, technology & collaboration – so call me blockchain, maybe?

Farm Animal Welfare – it’s now seen as a strategic opportunity by many global companies.

The benchmark…

I was fortunate enough to attend the launch of the 6th BBFAW report evaluating the performance of 110 large food institutions. The headline was ‘good progress but still a long way to go’.

Thank you to Nicky Amos for inviting me, one of the best events I have ever attended.

The venue was the London Stock Exchange – strange setting you may possibly think? Not so, it became very evident when David Harris, Head of sustainable investment at FTSE Russell opened the event by talking about how investors are closely linking sustainability and animal welfare metrics with share performance and valuation.

All business should take note – as the consumer becomes more aware and demands greater transparency on the goods that they are buying, companies that are transparent with their performance in dealing with ethical, sustainability and animal welfare issues will outperform those that are not.

Steve McIvor – chief executive of World Animal Protection made some great comments : ‘Consumers are showing that they increasingly care about the welfare of animals when they are deciding where to eat’.

The Foodservice industry still has ‘a lot more work to do’ providing transparency of animal welfare in their supply chains according to the new report. Despite making some progress (JD Wetherspoons rose 3 places) in the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, pub & restaurant chains lag behind retailers and manufacturers and still need to make improvements.

No hospitality company achieved the ‘tier one’ status in the ranking but McDonald’s & our very own Greggs placed towards the top of tier two after making farm animal welfare a part of their business strategies.

The likes of KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks managed tier five, defined as showing limited evidence of implementation, while Subway and Burger King both ranked in tier four, and were defined as making progress. Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and The Co-operative Group all achieved tier one ranking.

The stats are staggering. Globally, 50 billion chickens are slaughtered every year (that’s 7500 every 10 seconds) – a large proportion of those live in unacceptable conditions. A lot of work is being done with the emerging markets of countries such as China, Brazil and Thailand.

 

Did you know that the largest dairy industry in the world is in India? China produces 700 million pigs per year – the UK produces 10 million. Big numbers, lots of animals.

The report scores companies on 4 areas:

·      Management policy & commitment

·      Governance & management

·      Leadership & innovation

·      Performance reporting & impact – increasingly becoming more important

Similar to the Modern Slavery act 2015, it’s not good enough just to have a policy in place. The company needs to have the commitments as part of their culture and strategy and more importantly, measure and report on their performance.

Only 11% of companies report on animal welfare outcomes – that’s 12 out of 110 global businesses. The answer is data and technology.

Can blockchain fill this void? Possibly. There are more and more commentators on this subject, very few are experts and it’s unproven in food. Watch this space and I aim to provide more insight on this subject soon.

There is existing technology that maps supply chains and is able to harvest sustainability & animal welfare KPIs from any part of that chain – look at my linked in profile and you will find out who they are!

Transparency will be king – do not underestimate the power of transparency. Technology will be the vehicle for this much need transparency.

If any of the above has resonated and you would like to discuss this subject further, lets connect and get in touch. I am heading up a project to drive collaboration in the foodservice industry focusing on compliance, ethical and animal welfare performance. All fingers point towards integrity.

Don’t get me started on integrity (doing the right thing even when nobody is looking). That subject is for another day.

I also love feedback – good, bad and ugly, it’s how we all grow so please let me know your thoughts.

Have a great day

Dan McGlynn

Authenticate IS

Original posted here:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/farm-animal-welfare-transparency-so-call-me-maybe-dan-mcglynn/

Towards a Transparency Culture in the Food Chain

This article is written by John G. Keogh.

Conventional wisdom suggests that transparency is an irrefutable practice in public and private sector governance (1). In fact, transparency is viewed as foundational for the efficient functioning of markets and provides a bedrock layer for trust to function as a ‘social lubricant’ by reducing information asymmetry (2). Although there is a complex bidirectional relationship between transparency and trust, increased transparency increases trust, according to a growing number of empirical findings and industry research.

“Trust is in Crisis” Edelman, 2017 Trust Barometer

The recurring exposures of deceptive practices, ethical lapses as well as opportunistic and immoral behaviour by individuals, governments, media, NGO’s and businesses has catapulted transparency into global prominence especially in the food industry.

No doubt you would concur that we have ideological and biased reporting, allegations of ‘paid-for’ scientific publications, deceptive practices, fake news and then there is the viral nature of social media to spread the falsehoods.

With all this going on in the background, sceptical consumers continue to raise their concerns about major social issues related to sustainability of natural resources and habitat destruction of endangered species. A key question raised often is whether the 3rd party certifiers are independent and unbiased, whether their results are peer-reviewed and can be trusted. And more importantly, can they be trusted when they rely on the firms they audit for revenue?

Research by Graham Bullock (2015) on 245 eco-labels and sustainability schemes in the USA found only 2 firms met criteria of being independent, had qualified staff (PhD level experts) and their results were peer-reviewed. He further noted that 56% of Americans do not trust companies’ green claims. Bullock’s insightful research was based on the findings from Starobin and Weinthal (2010) who found competency issues with 3rd party certifiers for Kosher labels.

Furthermore, consumers have legitimate concerns spanning from fair trade to the immoral acts of human slavery and forced child labour in our food chains. On top of concerns for animal welfare and a growing fear of antibiotic resistance, consumers are suffering from a lack of consensus among the public health agencies, NGO’s and the food business operators on the long-term health and safety of common foods. Again, whom can they trust?

do you remember the 2015 ‘processed meat causes cancer’ from the WHO? It seemed well grounded in scientific evidence but after significant push-back from industry, there was consumer confusion followed by a partial retraction by WHO a few days later. Who can the consumer trust to provide transparent, and trusted information? Unbiased reporting and evidence-based recommendations? Was the retraction the result of an industry lobby to protect revenues or grounded in sound science?

When transparency is lacking, so is trust!

In my view, the problem today is a lack of a transparency culture throughout the food ecosystem. But my question is; who is hiding what and why are they doing it? Following on from that, it is no wonder (at least to me) that Edelman argues that trust is in crisis. The challenges we are now faced with is ‘whom’ do we trust, and ‘what information’ can we trust? And my question is, therefore ‘can a transparency culture help’? I think it can.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines transparency as the “quality or state of being transparent”. And ‘transparent’ is defined as “having the property of transmitting light….” and “free from pretense or deceit”, “easily detected or seen through”, “readily understood,” “characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices”

What is a Transparency culture?

Much like a food safety culture which is brilliantly outlined in several books by Frank Yiannas, VP of Food Safety at Wal-Mart, in my view, a transparency culture is essentially about human behaviour. Regardless of laws, regulations, standards and organizational SOP’s, a transparency centric culture means doing the right thing when nobody is looking. And when they are looking, to accept responsibility and accountability.

A transparency culture should extend throughout the organizational ecosystem and is critically important to the boundary spanning employees who engage in direct communication and business transactions with stakeholders. A transparency culture is also about honest, forthright, clear and understandable communications, not hiding details in the fine print or providing scientific or technical language that consumers cannot normally decipher.

An example of a Transparency Culture fail

A transparency culture in the food chain is not only about the food itself but also related to business practices which impact consumers negatively. In the past week, Canada’s premier retailer, Loblaw received immunity from prosecution as the whistleblower on more than a decade of industry practices of collusion and price-fixing for bread. This ethical and immoral lapse was not just one person but a whole supply chain colluding to cheat consumers and break Canadian anti-trust laws. Will a Blockchain fix this? Nope.

This illegal practice will be costly for Loblaw and others, and not just financially. It will take time for consumer trust to bounce back. Loblaw is booking a CDN$ 150 million charge this quarter to appease angry consumers with a 25-dollar ‘mea-culpa’ voucher. Unethical behaviour doesn’t pay and will get exposed eventually.

 ‘‘Transparency is the deliberate attempt to make available all legally releasable information—whether positive or negative in nature—in a manner that is accurate, timely, balanced, and unequivocal, for the purpose of enhancing the reasoning ability of publics and holding organizations accountable for their actions, policies, and practices” Rawlings (2009)

How do we fix this?

The entire food ecosystem needs a rethink on transparency as an enabler of consumer trust. From farm to retail we should consider how to put into practice a program, or programs to ensure ‘transparency as a culture’ is embedded in all aspects of the food chain.

A lofty goal right? Why am I proposing this? well, no government or enforcement agency can control or govern all aspects of our complex society. Therefore, voluntary measures such as those embedded into a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program becomes an alternative, non-state mechanism to address these societal issues and concerns broadly (5). And specifically, issues such as food safety, food security, food fraud and price fixing – the latter being one of those issues where consumers, regulators and insiders alike probably shake their heads in dismay thinking that was a thing of the past.

Embarking on a CSR journey focused on implementing a transparency culture is one way for an organization to publically state, ‘we are taking responsibility’ and ‘we are accountable’ for addressing these big-hairy societal issues and also the specific issues of food safety, fraud and deceptive practices. By the way, transparency is viewed in the discourse as fundamental to the implementation of successful CSR, which, if not managed ethically, becomes just another tool for an organization to peddle untruths such as greenwashing (fake sustainability claims).

Finally, in a transparency culture, whistleblowing at all levels should be encouraged to continually improve processes by shining a light in the opaque areas of the food chain where unethical, immoral, deceitful and illegal behaviours are most rampant. This is no doubt a marathon, and the food industry is likely still at the start line without a race plan.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers.

About the Author:

John G. Keogh is a sought-after speaker, advisor and researcher. Operating at the intersection of the Public + Private sectors globally, he provides confidential advisory, research & interventions across policy, operations, strategy and technology.

John holds a PG Dip. and an MBA in General Mgmt. He has an MSc (distinction) in Business and Management Research into Supply Chain Transparency and Consumer Trust. He is currently a part-time, associate researcher at Henley Business School, undertaking doctoral (DBA) research into food chain transparency and consumer trust. John plans to publish an ebook “Food Chain Transparency – what executives need to know” in 2018.

Sources:

(1) Welch et al., (2006), (2) Berg (2004). (3) Rawlins, (2008), (4) Penders et al., (2017), (5) Dubbink et al., (2008), plus in-text references.

 

Original posted here:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/towards-transparency-culture-food-chain-john-g-keogh/

Interview – Founder of bext360, Daniel Jones

I have looked so much forward to this interview.  Ever since I first read about bext360, and their use of blockchain, I have impatiently been waiting to see their work in action. So, if you are a coffee addict, and want to be sure that the coffee you drink everyday, in fact is the quality of what it is suppose to be, bext360 will have you covered. Lets get started!

Can you start with telling us a little about yourself and Bext360?I’m (Daniel Jones) a US and Africa based entrepreneur with over 17 years of experience living and working in emerging and frontier markets including China, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and India. I have professional roots in technology, applied mathematics, electronic commerce, and emerging economies. In 1991, I was with the Defense Intelligence Agency, where I was a key architect and topology designer of the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications Systems (JWICS), the first and now largest TCP/IP system to transfer voice, video, and data across Top Secret networks.

After that, I spent the last five years living in Kinshasa, DRC, where I evaluated supply chains and structured/funded companies as CEO and founder of Pioneer Management. In the DRC, I founded RAMIKA, the first US-owned company to successfully export conflict-free minerals from the DRC to the US in compliance with supply chain and traceability requirements under the Dodd-Frank Act. In addition, I structured the first private port facility constructed in the DRC.

I launched bext360 in April 2017. bext360 is company that develops technologies to streamline critical supply chains in emerging economies. Although our technology can be used across industries for different commodities, we are focused on the coffee industry first. Our bext-to-brew” platform aims to revolutionize the coffee supply chain with IoT, blockchain, machine vision and artificial intelligence (more on this below), while bringing consumers and farming communities together to improve product quality, community livelihoods and the consumer coffee experience. A guiding principle of bext360 is to build community by enabling buyers and other organizations with direct paths to improve the quality of both the product and the communities that provide the coffee.

Great, but how did you first get involved with coffee supply chains?I got involved with coffee supply chain after working for years in the Democratic Republic of Congo exporting conflict-free minerals, where security necessitated by large cash transactions represented a significant expense. I saw that most were entirely inefficient and lacked so much transparency. At around the same time, I started learning about blockchain technology and I became fascinated with the idea that it could potentially transform the supply chain for many industries. I landed on coffee because it is one of the most valued commodities in the world and its supply chain is completely antiquated.

Why is there a need for better traceability and transparency of coffee supply chains?

Although coffee is the second-largest traded commodity in the world (a $150 billion market worldwide), its supply chain remains antiquated and opaque. While global demand for coffee continues to grow, farming communities in developing countries must accept low prices and delayed payments for their harvested goods (women are responsible for 70 percent of growing and harvesting). However, millennials and coffee connoisseurs are now demanding transparency for sourcing and origin – indicating a shift in consumer preference and their willingness to pay for supply chain transparency.

And in relation to that, how do Bext360 technology tackle the problem?

bext360 is helping to eliminate many of the inefficiencies of the coffee supply chain while simultaneously providing transparency at each step of the process. Using machine vision, AI and IoT along with blockchain technology, we evaluate and sort coffee cherries and parchment (a phase of coffee been processing) based on quality. Farmers are then able to use a mobile app to view payments based on coffee quality, and may offer or reject the proposed payment. They are effectively increasing compensation for higher quality cherries. Powered by Stellar’s blockchain, the application immediately pays the farmer for her product upon acceptance of the offer. The application may also connect to the farmer’s other accounts for transactions such as loan repayments, local taxes and other financial commitments. Each evaluation and transaction relating to the coffee – including farmer identification, quality, purchasers and payouts – is recorded on the blockchain providing visibility to end consumers.

The certification process in supply chains is extremely costly. Currently, inspectors must physically examine each product at every point of the supply chain to verify that the product is what it purports to be. For coffee, every batch requires certification papers to move along the supply chain from one port to the next. bext360 is moving this data to the blockchain, providing transparency and immutability, which eliminates today’s costly and sometimes unreliable paper trail.

Using blockchain technology, the bext360 platform also creates crypto tokens based on the analyzed quality of the coffee to more accurately reflect the value of this commodity. As the commodity progresses through the supply chain, new tokens are automatically created to represent the increased value of the product until it becomes the roasted coffee we know and love.

For example, when a coffee cherry enters the supply chain, a token is created to represent its quality at the first level. As it continues through the supply chain and is processed to become “green coffee”, a new token will be created at this supply chain node and exchanged with the older token to represent the commodity in its new form. This tokenization technology can be used to represent other products, such as cocoa, nuts, spices, seafood products and pharmaceuticals.

The ability to create tokens representative of commodity value is groundbreaking in many ways. All stakeholders across the supply chain can own tokens, which hold real value for financial institutions. Banks, suppliers, business owners and the machines themselves can own, pay and collect from each other seamlessly. Commodity financing, plays a significant role in the portfolios of certain financial institutions. Rabobank has welcomed the use of tokens to reduce risk, while fundamentally changing how companies interface with the bank itself. Tokenization technology drastically reduces the transaction cost of global commodities and may also be applied to inventory valuation and the development of smart contracts.

Additionally, by providing the data recorded on the blockchain to banks and microfinancing institutions, it makes financials easier to audit and assess lending risk and therefore, reduces the risk to make individual loans. On the bext360 platform record includes: how much each farmer has sold, the quality of her cherries, and how many coffee cherry trees she owns. Based on this information and her unique history, the bank may borrow against the value reflected on her blockchain record. It is an innovative solution to address ongoing limitations for the under-banked – something other startups like Tala are trying to address with alternative credit scores.

Blockchain technology can also bring consumers and farming communities together. Using the bext360 platform, eventually, consumers may tip coffee farmers directly for coffee purchased at their neighborhood coffee shop. Payments to the farmer could be made instantaneously and tracked through the blockchain’s immutable ledger to assure consumers that tips were allocated appropriately.

If someone was interested in learning more about the work you do, where can the find more?

They can visit our website, or also read about us on Fast Company and Fortune. There is also a short documentary video about our company and technology that was created by Freethink Media for their Coded Series that was sponsored by Facebook.

I believe that this combination, blockchain and on-site quality control, will help ensure transparency from start to finish, and as Dan says, bring consumers and farmers closer together.

® 2018 MyFoodTrust

By

Kristoffer Just

Consumers find transparency in food important

Transparency has been one of the biggest buzzwords in the food business. It has driven product reformulations, moved producers to utilize more sustainable practices. It is now no more an option, it’s a requirement. The survey by Response Media underscores its importance as producers, manufacturers and retailers move forward with greater transparency of their products. The survey was carried out Q1 this year with 500 US respondents and mixed gender demographics.

The findings

Consumers place a significant value of importance on the source of ingredients; the manufacturing, handling, and shipping of the product; and the sustainability, charitable, and labor policies of a brand.

Consumers primarily want it before and during purchase. So an easy-to-use QR code or NFC tag, combined with the consumers smartphone could do the trick.

So their recommendation is that companies that can deliver content during all stages will secure a stronger level of trust and differentiate themselves from competition.

So, brands must consciously develop and communicate meaningful transparency content to consumers when and where they want it. This transparency have to be founded on a trusted process, or else it is just airy-fairy. This could be a supply chain blockchain tech and RFID process, to ensure the greater transparency and traceability. So there is no need to wait, the first that brings transparency to the food we eat, is going to have a great advantage when people have to chose between products in the supermarket.

© 2018 Kristoffer Just Petersen

References

http://www.fooddive.com/news/grocery–study-nearly-all-consumers-find-transparency-in-food-and-beverage-important/446999/?mc_cid=a1edfc77cc&mc_eid=35fb007d92

Response Media – 2017 Transparency Study

Interview – Tom Mueller – Author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). It might not be a food product that you buy everyday, but when you buy it, it is quite expensive so you want to “the real deal”. But, far from every EVOO product on the shelf at the supermarket is actually a EVOO. Meaning, that some are of lesser quality (low-grade oils), not from the country of labelling (olives from greece, but the label says Italy) and so forth.

I used EVOO as an example in my thesis on how a new technology, blockchain, could reestablish trust, transparency and traceability in the supply chain of EVOO. And that is highly needed, especially if you (if your Danish), saw Kontant on DR last night, where they investigated Danish distributors and a Italian producer. So in relation to that, I have interviewed Tom Mueller, who has extensive knowledge about EVOO and the fraud that happens before the products are on the shelfs. So without further ado:

Can you start with telling us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Tom Mueller. I am a free-lance writer of non-fiction and fiction. I was educated at Oxford (DPhil, Rhodes Scholar), Harvard (BA, summa cum laude), and Alief Hastings High School in rural east Texas, home of the Fighting Bears. I’ve lived or worked in 48 countries.

My first book, Extra Virginity, is a New York Times best-selling account of olive oil culture, history, and crime. My articles have appeared in the New YorkerNational Geographic MagazineNew York Times Magazine and Atlantic Monthly.

What work have you done in relation to EVOO?

Truth about EVOO was born out of my love of great olive oil, and my concern about low-grade oils being passed off as “extra virgin” in the industry today, worldwide.  As a freelance writer who for the last two decades has spent much time in and around the Mediterranean, while contributing to publications including the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, National Geographic, and New York Times Magazine, I felt I knew olive oil well.  But it took an assignment for the New Yorker in 2007, “Slippery Business,” to make me understand the remarkable complexity of the olive oil trade, and the immense value of olive oil itself.  Since then I’ve gone steadily deeper into oil; in 2012 I published Extra Virginity, a book that explores this great foodstuff from many angles – cultural, culinary, chemical, criminal – and introduces the artisan producers and age-old landscapes of fine olive oil.

Why does fraud happen along EVOO’s supply chain?

The fraudulent behavior comes from everywhere – from misrepresenting amounts of olives brought to the mill, to various games that are played in the milling process, to blending of higher-grade extra virgin olive oil with low-grade olive oil or with other cheaper vegetable oils, to mislabeling . . .  The list is endless, as is the ingenuity of the fraudsters.

Why is it important for, us as a consumer, to have knowledge about this fraudulent behavior?

First, to ensure you are eating a healthy, tasty and genuine product, whose origin you know. Second, to make sure that honest producers get a fair price for their product – or find a market at all (they are often excluded by low-priced, fraudulent oils). Third, that you aren’t supporting fraudsters when you buy a bottle of oil.

From your knowledge, what can be done to increase traceability and transparency of EVOO products?

It is crucial to do on-site inspections and tests of mills, refineries and storage facilities, especially in ports.  So many checks are on paperwork only, not chemical testing of oils. The chemical and sensory parameters of the extra virgin grade also have to be improved (tightened) – they are currently very loose. Labels should specify the exact geographic location where olives were grown and milled, and the exact name of the producers – too often the “brand” is simply a multinational that buys and blends other peoples’ oils.

Further on that note, do you think tech can help with increasing traceability and transparency of EVOO products? And how?

Steady scientific advances in infra-red, DNA and other testing of olive oil have appeared. These need to be incorporated, rapidly, into current legislation.

What are your tips and tricks to spot that the EVOO you buy, is in fact what it is?

That is very hard to state, because there are many factors that comes into play. But I have outlined some points below, and if you want more thorough tips and tricks go to my website here.

  • Olives are stone fruits, like cherries and plums.  So real EVOO is fresh-squeezed fruit juice – seasonal, perishable, and never better than the first few weeks it was made.
  • Bitterness and pungency are usually indicators of an oil’s healthfulness. Sweetness and butteriness are often not.
  • There are 700+ different kinds of olives, which make thousands of different kinds of oil. Asking “what’s the best olive oil?” is like asking “what’s the best wine?”  The answer is, “depends on what you’re eating it with.”
  • Know the when, who, where of your oil: When it was made (harvest date), who made it (specific producer name), and exactly where on the planet they made it.

A big thank you to Tom, for his insights on this widely loved product across the globe, and why we need to keep pushing for better traceability and transparency of food products, in general.

If you want to read or know about my work on creating better traceability and transparency with tech, read this post, where I state the current supply chain process of EVOO, and how blockchain can shift the supply chain towards more transparency of the food we eat, and how farmers, producers, retailers etc, can get better traceability.

Have a great day!

© 2018 Kristoffer Just Petersen

Fish is good for you(?) – Lack of transparency of mercury levels

Eat fish at least 2 times a week! That is what the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food say, that fish is the main course several times a week. It is important to eat different fish species of both fatty and lean fish. In total, you should eat 350 grams of fish per week, of which about 200 grams should preferably be fatty fish.

But it comes with a catch. Mercury! As illustrated below, mercury is a natural part of the food chain, but coal-fired power plants are the No. 1 culprit when it comes to adding mercury to our environment, that ends up in the fish that you eat.

Fish that are contaminated with mercury, can lead to very serious diseases. Fish in Danish waters have such high levels of mercury that researchers in all of the samples in 2015. In some cases, the level of mercury was up to 13 times higher than the limit value, according to a report published by DCE (Danish Centre For Environment And Energy). However, it is worth noting that the content in 98 percent of the cases does not exceed the limit value of the food for humans. But pregnant women and children is to avoid fish due to mercury contamination. As the consumption of mercury in the quantities can impair immune response and cause neurological damage leading to loss of coordination, vision, hearing and can produce mental retardation, especially in the young.

If we travel across the globe to Japan, dolphin and whale meat is a common source of food. Here tests conducted by BlueVoice.org on residents of the village of Taiji, Japan revealed that people who eat dolphin meat exhibit extremely high levels of mercury and other heavy metals. The Japanese Health Ministry advised level of mercury in humans is 0.4ppm. The highest level in their tests revealed a mercury level of 18.9 ppm in a man who eats dolphin to this day.

One tragic side effect of the ban on commercial whaling is that Japanese fishermen have increased their slaughter of dolphins many fold. A product labelled and sold as whale meat is often found to be dolphin meat if subject to molecular genetic analysis.

There is som tragic irony that the arguement that we not kill dolphins and whales for food cunsumption includes the fact that we have contaminated the seas to such an extent that these creatures are dangerous to eat.

BUT, there is hope. Safe Catch! Safe Catch inspects the fish to ensure it meets conventional standards: It has to fall within the normal size for the particular type of tuna, and display no visible deformities or strange odors that indicate disease. Then, Safe Catch partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program–a global authority on sustainable and ethical seafood standards–to ensure the catch methods and labor practices of the fishing companies they source from fall in line with those standards.  Furthermore, Safe Catch only sources from fisheries that have been certified by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

To carry out the mercury test, Safe Catch takes a small flesh biopsy (around the size of a grain of rice), using a syringe-like tool. The sample is then injected into the technology interface. On the screen, the Safe Catch team enters data about the origin and size of the fish; the analysis of the mercury level takes under a minute. Those fish that don’t pass the test are returned to the fishermen and likely sold to other tuna companies.

References

https://www.fastcompany.com/40497117/this-mercury-safe-tuna-company-is-on-a-mission-to-clean-up-the-oceans

https://www.foedevarestyrelsen.dk/Selvbetjening/Guides/Sider/Saadan-begraenser-du-kviksoelv-fra-isaer-fisk.aspx

http://www.bluevoice.org/news_dolphinmeat.php

Bananas from Ecuador – Village and bananas showered in pesticides

In Ecuador, you live and die with the poisonous bananas.

Bananas from Ecuador are sprayed with pesticides, many of which are particularly toxic.

Seven are illegal in the EU and, according to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, all 18 are banned in Denmark. The pesticides are applied by airplanes spraying the pesticides beyond Ecuador’s more than 5000 banana plantations. This has major consequences for you and the village San Pedro de la Y.

The pesticides affects both banana workers and locals so they get sick. Very sick. Several of the pesticides used in Ecuador’s banana plantations are, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), carcinogenic or have similar serious side effects.

There is a lot of money in bananas in Ecuador, and very few have the courage to stand up against the powerful industry – not at all if you live and work in one of the country’s banana provinces.

DR (Danish national Radio), which is the reference for this post, has interviewed banana plantation workers, one of them is Efren Velez Cedeño. During the work of one the banana plantations, Efren was repeatedly bathed in the dust of pesticides. Now he is seriously ill with a liver disease and due to this unable to work anymore.

“It burns on the skin. Stings and claws. We never ever knew beforehand when it would be sprayed from the planes. Never. We had to hide under some plastic or a tiny roof”says Efren Velez Cedeño, who has worked in the plantations for 30 years, until he got sick.

This is not a view thatEduardo Ledesma, chairman of Ecuador’s banana exporters, believe to be true. According to him, no plantations in Ecuador use pesticides that are illegal in the EU: “If they are banned by the EU, I can assure you that they are not used here. And in that case, tell me the name of the product and the banana producer. Tell me who they are. If you’re a good journalist, tell me. My partners do not use pesticides that are banned by the EU.”

Whether or not people are affected by the pesticides when sprayed, Eduardo Ledesma states: “It’s a lie, it’s a lie because the workers get a message, nobody is so stupid. The pesticides come from planes with a GPS that controls where the pesticides will land. If sprayed over populated areas or in an irresponsible manner, it would happen that the banana workers were hit. It’s false information from competing countries that want to hurt Ecuador.”

The EU recognizes that aerial spraying can have serious negative consequences for human health, and seeks to avoid these consequences among EU citizens. Therefore, aerial spraying of crops with pesticides is discouraged unless exceptional conditions are present that would make the spraying an advantage instead of a risk for humans and the environment, according to DanWatch.

Nevertheless, European consumers risk buying bananas that are sprayed from the air with pesticides so dangerous that they risk making workers and their children ill, states DanWatch.

What is your thoughts?

If you want to read more about this matter, I highly recommend this article by DanWatch: https://danwatch.dk/en/undersoegelse/the-poison-comes-from-the-sky/

References:

https://www.dr.dk/nyheder/udland/i-ecuador-baade-lever-og-doer-man-med-de-giftige-bananer

They live and die by bananas