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AUTHENT-NET – Food Authenticity Research Network

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - AUTHENT-NET (AUTHENT-NET – Food Authenticity Research Network)

Reporting period: 2017-04-01 to 2018-03-31

The legacy of the horsemeat scandal in 2013 has resulted in the launch of several major initiatives by industry and governments to counter food fraud and assure the integrity of the food supply chain.
One area yet to be developed, prior to commencement of this project (April 2016), was cohesion of research activities between MSs. At the time there was a lack of accessibility and knowledge of the work of other MSs, potentially leading to duplication of effort at a time when national research budgets were diminishing and under increasing scrutiny.
From early discussions with funders it was clear there would be immediate benefits in just bringing the funding bodies together to share experiences and establish networks. In addition, funders identified that much would be gained by merely providing an inventory of current information on what has been done, where and by whom, in terms of MS R&D. Another conclusion was that there was very little strategic R&D taking place (UK was the exception), with most of the research being prioritised annually on a reactive basis. Leveraging was seen as a key method for MSs to maximise their budgets, and also as a means of having a more strategic element to their programmes.
An EU network on food authenticity research was acknowledged as the best way forward. Authent-Net was commissioned to fulfil that need.
Authent-Net’s overall objective is to facilitate sustainable cooperation between national and international research funding bodies in the area of food authenticity, to improve the competitiveness of the food supply chain and the consumer confidence in it, by means of better co-ordinated, cost effective R&D.
The specific objectives were to:
1. build a network of Member State research funding bodies, to increase knowledge transfer and facilitate transnational co-operation;
2. develop an openly available harmonised set of terms and definitions for use in food authenticity that will help transnational discussion and stocktaking;
3. “map” out food authenticity in Europe and undertake stocktaking and analysis of existing data (e.g. national research projects, methods, commodities, databases, regulations, etc.) in the area of food authenticity, with a view of developing synergies and contacts amongst competent organisations;
4. evaluate the gaps and complementarities in European funding of food authenticity R&D and assess them against the international landscape, in order to maximise synergies and impact and address where further research is needed;
5. develop a rationale and a recommendation for a high level strategic research agenda for transnational research programmes in Europe, extensively based on key stakeholder input;
6. establish a dynamic and sustainable European information platform for sharing and accessing information on food authenticity and related activities;
7. draft a white paper identifying the rationale for a potential ERA-NET on food authenticity;
8. actively disseminate the action aims and outcomes to other relevant research providers, and related stakeholders.
"Authent-Net has made significant progress and achieved all of the specific objectives in 1.1.
It has:

• Developed generic templates for MS to collate and enter information on their activities on food authenticity/anti fraud
• Expanded the ""mapping"" out the national food authenticity activities from the original target of 8 Member States to 14;
• Expanded the mapping of the pan European research on 4 commodities (Seafish, Beef, Olive oil, Honey) from the original target of three (Honey was added).
• Developed a secure forum for the funders to have confidential discussions;
• Produced a user-friendly, open source food authenticity information platform The Food Authenticity Research Network Hub (FARNHub), was co-designed with the funding bodies and contains: an inventory of activities within designated MS, a database of project reports, publications, methods of analyses, a daily updated database of news stories concerned with food fraud. This freely available resource will be sustained on the CRAW website for at least 3 years after the project finishes.
• held four international workshops, and several funders meetings to expand the network and discuss common issues;
• produced the Authent-Net website
• produced a summary of relevant EU legislation relevant to food authenticity
• produced a CEN Workshop Agreement on a common set of terms for food authenticity;
• held discussions with funding bodies and the Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR) committee about the possibility of an ERANET co-fund proposal being submitted to SCAR in 2018.
• produced a joint strategic research agenda on future key priorities for MS funding bodies
The collation and consolidation of 14 National Status Reports and 4 Commodity Status Reports is already providing enlightening information on national research activities within Europe. A unique secure discussion forum, specifically for the funding bodies, has been produced and is in use.
An analysis of the gaps and synergies across Europe has been conducted and together with the information from NSRs and CSRs has been used as a basis for compiling a draft joint research agenda for MS.
An interactive hub (FARNHub), specifically customized for national funding body use, but also freely available for everyone to access has been produced, that allows funders to quickly ascertain who, is funding what, and when, on any particular food authenticity topic within Europe. The FARNHub provides for the first time a “one stop shop” of all things food authenticity.
Authent-net has also initiated the first formal activity on establishing a common set of terms for food authenticity. The establishment of a CEN Workshop Agreement (CWA) is an important first step in bringing stakeholders together to agree on a common vocabulary for this area.

An overarching key impact of the CSA is a more joined up and coherent approach across the EU to tackle common priorities such as improved detection of food fraud, to better protect the consumer, to share knowledge, to maximise the use of authentic databases, expertise and resources, and to reduce duplication of efforts in a budget constrained world. As a result of Authent-Net MS have: a much better knowledge and view of the pan-European research and surveillance landscape; much more confidence in their ability to elucidate their joint strategic needs and in facilitating transnational collaboration and communication, a much greater knowledge of their counterparts in other MS and a greater willingness to communicate on both pan-European and bilateral levels. This impact of this greater cohesion is leading to improved efficiency of commissioning and delivery of research and surveillance for stakeholders. As a result of its success, MS already have plans for future meetings of the network.
An important prerequisite for error-free communication and efficient implementation is agreement on the meaning of basic terms and concepts within a given field. As a first step Authent-Net has, with extensive stakeholder input and consultation in a consensus-based process, developed a set of terms and conditions for a CEN Workshop Agreement (CWA) “Authenticity in feed and food chain - General terms and concepts”.