A Scottish start-up specialising in artificial intelligence for the food safety market has secured a six-figure government grant to further develop its allergen alert technology.
LiberEat, which is based in Aberdeen, has received £209,000 from Innovate UK to further advance the machine learning capabilities of its food safety platform. The technology already detects allergens missed through manual data processes, and this will be expanded to predict a wider range of safety issues.
“The grant funding we’ve received will go a long way in bringing our unique technology to more food businesses whilst accelerating our future technology roadmap,” LiberEat founder and chief executive Barry Leaper said.
“We already know our technology significantly outperforms all current methods of processing and checking food data at each stage of the food supply chain for even the largest, most sophisticated global food operations. We have created a platform that protects consumers from harm and puts food safety professionals’ minds at ease, reducing the risk of huge costs businesses face from food recalls and menu errors.”
In the UK, the Food Standards Agency has reported more than 100 food recalls in the last 12 months due to allergens not disclosed on food product labels.
These include such things as undeclared nuts, eggs, gluten, sulphites, mustard and milk – including items declared vegan but recalled due to containing milk. Errors fall through the cracks because food safety procedures include human checks and manual data input, with many undetected errors.
Mr Leaper said the importance of getting this information right has been underlined by last year’s introduction of Natasha’s Law, named after teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who died from an allergic reaction after eating sesame seeds that were baked into the dough of a baguette.
It covers the UK’s 14 major allergens which include: celery; cereals containing gluten, such as barley and oats; crustaceans such as prawns, crabs and lobsters; eggs; fish; lupin; milk; molluscs such as mussels and oysters; mustard; peanuts; sesame; soybeans; sulphur dioxide; and sulphites (sulphur dioxide and sulphites). All must be clearly highlighted on particular food packaging as undeclared allergens can trigger severe reactions and in some cases can lead to death.