SG5 – Security in the Agrifood


The food and drink industry is the largest industry in Europe with a turnover of EUR 913 Billion followed by the automotive and the chemical industries.

With its 308.000 enterprises this industry employs a share of 13, 5% of the total workforce corresponding to 4, 3 million people; 63% are employed in small and medium industries. The agrifood is the second largest industry in Italy and at European level the Italian agrifood market sales are ranked in third position after France and Germany. The agrifood sector consists of a number of food chains linking a multitude of players ranging from the field up to the finished product stored in the refrigerator of the consumer. The food industry processes about 70% of the produce of primary production.

The objective of food security is to develop and implement systems to ensure the integrity of the supply chain and to prevent the manipulation and alteration of food along the same.

The possibility to implement technologically advanced systems in the agrifood could dramatically increase the effectiveness and the efficiency of the public control mechanisms (e.g. customs, anti-fraud authorities, public health authorities) as well as of the self-control systems of companies along the supply chain. This would positively impact society by increasing well-being of citizens and by ensuring a quick and efficient management of possible food crises in terms of mitigation of both social panic and impacts on the economic competitiveness in the global markets.

To this end, it is necessary to prevent alterations induced by unauthorized handling of food and by tampering of packaging throughout the supply chain and to avoid the import of unsafe raw materials and those resulting from the incorrect functioning of other infrastructures such as power grid, transportation and telecommunications. It is also fundamental to prevent and manage voluntary contamination or involuntary pollution with chemicals, biological and radiological substances at the level of primary production in the field as a result of actions of agriterrorism, of industrial accidents, of natural disasters, of climatic change and of catastrophes due to land and ecosystem imbalances. The same technologies and systems will also serve to prevent fraud and voluntary alterations of foods protected by trademarks and protected designation of origin or protected geographical indication with the aim of ensuring the safety of citizens and of securing food supply chains and food products.

Defensive measures to be taken concern the development of technologies

  • To develop systems to quickly identify (in food but not only) the presence of deliberately introduced contaminants;
  • To early detect alien organisms and micro-organisms in foods, in drinking water or in fresh or processed products potentially responsible of plant, animal or human pandemics;
  • To quantify the presence of biotic and abiotic contaminants in foods (e.g. toxins, human pathogens, pesticides, radionuclides);
  • To prevent accidents and
  • To mitigate damages and contain impacts of adverse events;
  • To apply traceability and recognition systems throughout the supply chain and
  • To alert about incorrect handlings or storage of food products.

In order to deal with possible problems arising from terrorist or criminal attacks to the food chain it is necessary to support the existing control system but it is even more critical to develop innovative technological tools that allow the food chain to deliver a secure food supply in the medium and long term by discouraging attacks and by preventing acts of terrorism, sabotage, crime and mythomania. These technologies should ensure a continuous operation over time and, if the case, make sure a responsive crisis management, a quick mitigation of the effects and a rapid recovery of the food supply chain functions.

Through a process of consultation with agrifood enterprises, research centres and universities, as part of the platform SERIT, a number of urgent areas of research has been discussed and incorporated into the missions of the present work plan.

SG 5 Partners: Security in the Agrifood