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Nuclear Tech Fortifies Asia-Pacific Food Security

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In a step towards enhancing food security in the Asia-Pacific region, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) arranged an insightful online training workshop as part of the Forum for Nuclear Cooperation in Asia (FNCA) project. The focus was on combating food fraud using nuclear technology (CFF), an ambitious endeavour aimed at fortifying the region’s food supply chains against fraudulent activities.

Image credits: Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation

Led by Dr Debashish Mazumder, the Project Lead at ANSTO, the workshop played host to representatives from FNCA member states, fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange. Central to the project’s vision is the development of a robust food provenance technology platform bolstered by federated data connectivity. This platform aims to combat instances of fraud across eight member states in the Pacific region.

The implications of this project extend far beyond mere mitigation of fraud. They encompass the fostering of scientific expertise and capacity within participating countries, specifically in leveraging nuclear analysis techniques to navigate the challenges of food traceability in trade.

The workshop’s agenda encompassed multifaceted discussions, principally delving into the 2024 implementation plan for the CFF project. This plan encompassed the strategic selection of key food items, devising a comprehensive sample collection methodology, and outlining an analysis strategy to underpin the development of the envisioned provenance technology platform.

A pivotal segment of the workshop was a training and knowledge-sharing session facilitated by Patricia Gadd. This session served as a platform to delve into the nuanced application of nuclear technology in mitigating food fraud – an imperative domain in the current landscape of global trade.

The proceedings were expertly overseen by Natascha Spark, Senior Manager of Government and International Relations and IAEA RCA National Representative and RCA Chair. Spark highlighted the workshop’s broader context, emphasising its role as part of a concerted effort toward social and economic development within the region through the strategic use of nuclear science and technology.

Distinguished presenters shared invaluable insights. Additionally, members of ANSTO’s Food Provenance team, together with Prof. Jes Sammut of UNSW Aquaculture Research Group and the Centre for Marine Science and Innovation at UNSW, collectively steered sessions focusing on implementation plans.

The workshop saw active participation from FNCA country representatives, showcasing strategies and contributing to a unified consensus on pivotal activities. Dr Mazumder articulated the project’s research strategy, setting the trajectory for the collaborative efforts.

An agreement was reached to centre initial efforts on seafood – specifically Tiger prawn – as a foundational food item for baseline data collection. Each participating country nominated specific food items relevant to their region, reflecting the diverse landscape of this collaborative initiative.

ANSTO plans to gather Tiger prawn samples in 2024, including wild-caught and farmed types from various regions. Using handheld X-ray fluorescence scanners, they’ll capture fingerprint data, integrating it into ANSTO’s seafood database. This will greatly enhance traceability efforts in each country.

Dr Mazumder will lead the creation of a research publication, collaborating with country representatives as co-authors to encapsulate these extensive efforts. Additionally, there are plans for crucial training sessions on data analysis, result interpretation, and database development, ensuring lasting, meaningful outcomes.

Japan, while participating as an observer, is poised to contribute significantly through Dr Yaeko Suzuki of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO), extending stable isotope analytical support—an invaluable addition to the project’s arsenal.

The workshop marked not just a pivotal moment in the pursuit of combating food fraud but also signalled a resounding commitment towards fortifying the region’s food security. The collaborative efforts, driven by scientific innovation and cross-border cooperation, stand poised to yield enduring benefits, paving the way for a more resilient and secure food ecosystem in the Asia-Pacific region.


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