The Top Food Stories of 2018

Was 2018 the year of the vegan or the great potato shortage? This year saw an increased consumer scrutiny of how food is produced and manufactured and effects on health and wellbeing in the UK and around the world. From the sugar tax to Brexit food shortages, we take a whistle-stop tour of 2018’s top food and farming related stories.

January

The food year begins a warning that Jersey Royal potato crops may be hit due to a shortage of EU workers to plant seed potatoes. In other farming related news – the Food Standards Agency tested a large sample of fresh whole chickens and found a worrying number of anti-microbial resistant Campylobacter, indicating a higher than previous use of antibiotics on farms

February

News that consumption of ultra-processed foods may be linked to cancer according to French researchers. Fears about the decline in hedgehog numbers from around 30million in the 1950s to around 1 million today in both urban and rural areas are reported by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species. This is seen as a key indicator of the loss of biodiversity but was refuted by NFU countryside advisor Claire Robinson

March

The National Farmers’ Union elects Minette Batters to be the first female president... Meanwhile, media reports suggest that UK children could be banned from buying high-sugar caffeinated energy drinks after research shows that they consume more than children in any other European country... The beast from the east blows in late snow and unseasonably low temperatures across the UK.

April

The sugar tax, a 20 per cent levy on high-sugar drinks, is introduced in the UK amid hopes it will cut the consumption of sugar in fizzy drinks and help to prevent health problems including obesity and tooth decay. Read our report here… A cold start to April further delays sowing of spring barley and wheat, while planting of potatoes, lettuce and brassicas is weeks behind schedule... Microplastics are discovered in all brands of bottled water.

May

A tweet from Kensington Palace reveals that the unusual cake baked for the wedding of HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is an elderflower syrup sponge cake... We report on the latest developments in vegan beef and steak, with Tesco’s first shipment of Vivera plant-based steak selling out within days.

June

Beer, fizzy drink and meat producers warn of possible shortages due to CO² supply problems in the run-up to the 2018 World Cup. The shortage is due to a longer than usual break in the production of ammonia. CO² is produced as a by-product of the ammonia manufacturing process. Good news for British livestock farmers as China lifts a twenty year ban on British beef imports.

July

There are warnings that food safety controls could be suspended to prevent perishable goods being delayed at UK borders if there is a no-deal Brexit. In another shock decision, the European Court of Justice ruled that crops created by gene editing should be treated as if they were derived from classical genetic modification(GM) - even though unlike GM, no genetic material is introduced from another organism.

August

The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium publishes a detailed description and analysis of the reference sequence of the bread wheat genome, in the hope of creating varieties of the world’s most widely cultivated crop that can adapt to climate change… The first commercial crop of UK-grown lentils is on track for harvesting in the autumn… and an epidemiologist at the Harvard TH Chan school of public health describes coconut oil as ‘pure poison’.

September

The coroner calls for food labelling reform following the inquest into the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse. Natasha, who had a severe sesame allergy, died after eating Pret-a-Manger baguette at Heathrow airport, which because it was ‘produced on the premises’ was not required by law to list the ingredients… David Rutley MP is appointed to Defra as Food Supplies Minister to protect food supplies amid fears of a no-deal Brexit.

October

A report published in the journal Nature led by Marco Springmann, a Fellow at the Oxford Martin Programme Future of Food, warns that a massive reduction in meat consumption is essential to prevent catastrophic climate change and to support future world food production. William Sitwell, resigns as editor of Waitrose Food magazine, after ‘killing vegans’ private joke email.

November

Differing preferences for tea and coffee may be genetically based according to the perception of bitterness… The value of the UK gin industry leaps from £130 million in 2009 to £461 million in 2018… Hong Kong firm Livin’ Farms believes home-grown mealworms could be the future of food production and sells commercially produced worm farms for home use.

December

Whilst it’s too early to predict the hot picks in this year’s Christmas shopping trollies, below are a few pointers as to where the trends are heading this year. In terms of food innovation and new developments, keep an eye out for gingerbread stuffing, fermented foods, unicorn cakes and cauliflower wellingtons. Not your usual Christmas fare – but 2018 hasn’t been an average year!

From all of us at the AgriFood Training Partnership – we’d like to wish you season’s greetings and a peaceful New Year, when we look forward to welcoming you onto one of our training courses.

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