ISO 9001 & UKAS Registered, Electron Beam Services in the United Kingdom ISO 9001 & UKAS Registered, Electron Beam Services in the United Kingdom

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The Food and Drink Sector Council (FDSC) has launched a COVID-19 Recovery Plan for the industry, after the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the strength and fragility of the food chain.

A report from the FDSC stated that the COVID-19 lockdown saw the UK food system face its biggest challenge since 1945—“to keep the nation fed.”

It highlighted a number of areas of significant economic impact in varying ways. Panic buying sparked by the pandemic prompted some food manufacturers to boost production by up to 50%. Many retailers, farmers and other producers also increased sales—while the hospitality industry saw “sales evaporate” as a result of social distancing rules and regulations.

Terry Jones, industry co-chair of the FDSC and Director General of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) spoke on the matter, saying how the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the strength of the UK food chain, and how well industry and government can work together—but that COVID-19 also laid bare the fragility of our food system:

“This report clearly outlines what needs to be done to ensure the entire sector can restart successfully and build a greener, healthier system for all.”

Overall, the report builds on the positive response to changing consumer demands during this extremely challenging time, commending the ways in which businesses and people came together to ensure food supplies were maintained, shelves stacked, and the most vulnerable people protected.

However, its key message is to look at the lessons we can learn from the coronavirus outbreak to make the food system more resilient in the future.

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The International Space Station (ISS) is going to be visible in the skies above the UK from now until the start of August, allowing us three weeks to see a real spaceship, carrying its astronaut crew.

But that’s not all we will be able to see. Comet Neowise will also be visible to the naked eye until the end of July, as it races towards its closest approach to Earth - a mere 64 million miles away (That’s 260 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon).

Even at these vast distances, there have been many reports of it being spotted on clear nights recently. If we get a break from the cloudy weather for some clear nights, look out for it low in the northern sky about an hour after sunset.

There will also be planets visible at the same time, giving us all a proper tour of the solar system. Jupiter and Saturn should be visible in a clear sky all night.

However, if it is the International Space Station you’re holding out for, then you might have to be prepared for some late nights or some early mornings. To get an up to date schedule for what time daily you can see the ISS pass overhead, MeteorWatch has a guide for you.

You might need to allow ten minutes either side of the scheduled appearance, as the ISS might need to make orbital adjustments, which will affect the time it passes overhead.

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Over the last few months, many of us have faced shortages of our favourite food products at the supermarkets. Even after the hoarding crisis died down, when consumers emptied shelves in panic, major retailers have failed to supply everything their customers want to buy due to countries locking their borders.

Without being able to rely on trade as much as before, it has led experts to question whether one of the legacies of the coronavirus pandemic is the UK becoming more self-sufficient in its food production.

An article in World Crunch revealed that 86 per cent of Germans wanted the nation to “be able to meet its own needs for basic foodstuffs through domestic agriculture”.

The study, carried out by the University of Gottingen, revealed the majority of Germans wanted the country to improve its agricultural food production so consumers would not have to restrict the amount of pasta, sugar, yeast, or flour they could buy in the future.

However, this might not be as simple as it seems, with many ingredients being flown in from all over the world.

Rudolf Trettenbrein, managing director of the consultancy firm Inverto Austria, said: “Many ingredients that could be produced in Germany actually come from China. That’s often the case, for example, with dried fruits such as apricots, peaches and plums.”

This has helped countries make substantial savings. Furthermore, food production industries are able to benefit from international trade, with Germany exporting 71.6 billion euros (£64.1 billion) worth of food products around the world in 2019.

To cope with the challenges of food production, which would need to increase by up to 70 per cent over the next 30 years to keep up with growing populations, researchers at the University of Copenhagen have come up with a solution.

They have determined 75 new technologies could “transform the entire food chain”, including artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, robotics, vertical farming and micro-algae production.

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On 14 July, the UAE will become the first Arab country to launch a mission to Mars, as part of a wider regional effort to build knowledge and create opportunities, especially for young people.

The Hope Mars Mission is expected to reach the planet by February, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the UAE. The project has been planned, managed and implemented by an Emirati team overseen and funded by the UAE Space Agency, according to the BBC

“This mission is not just about the UAE it’s about the region, it’s about the Arab issue,” Omran Sharaf, the mission’s project manager at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC), said.

“The region is going through tough times and we do need good news and we need the youth in the region to really start looking inwards, building their own nations and putting differences aside to co-exist with people with different faiths and backgrounds and work together.”

Developing talent, creating opportunities for engineers, scientists, and researchers working in natural sciences are the next important endeavours for the country, Sarah Al-Amiri, the UAE’s Minister of State for Advanced Sciences added.

“Mars provided us with the necessary challenge to rigorously develop talent in engineering, it gave us an appetite for risk and being able to circumvent the risk and push forward with the mission for development. It allows us to start integrating and creating new opportunities for scientists within the UAE and those that are studying the natural sciences,” said Al-Amiri.

Since the project was launched in 2014, the team has designed, developed and assembled the spacecraft, and repeatedly tested it through the harsh conditions it is expected to encounter.

Over the last 60 years, only six countries have sent missions to the Red Planet.

Sir Ian Blatchford, director of the UK’s Science Museum Group, described the UAE’s project as fascinating.

“What they are trying to achieve is remarkable for a country that is developing this infrastructure, but particularly I think they’re being very modest in describing the fact that they’re doing it in half the time,” he said.

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Almost exactly three days after SpaceX’s historic first crew launch from the Kennedy Space Centre on 30 May, the 15-storey tall Falcon rocket booster has been returned to shore, after landing itself aboard a football field-sized drone ship off the coast of Florida shortly after the weekend launch.

Local residents, tourists, and space enthusiasts flocked to Jetty Park and Port Canaveral to witness the return of the reusable rocket booster, as the SpaceX drone ship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ brought the rocket home, reports

A tug boat pulled the drone ship through the inlet leading to Port Canaveral at around 2 pm local time (around 7 pm BST) on Tuesday 2 June, and the Falcon 9 rocket booster was carefully hoisted off the drone ship by a crane, and into an onshore stand.

SpaceX planned to remove or retract the rocket’s landing legs, then rotate the booster horizontal for transport back to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for further inspections, and likely refurbishment for another launch.

The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 3:22 p.m. local time on Saturday 30 May from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre carrying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on a test flight to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.

The launch grabbed the attention of space enthusiasts all around the world, as it marked the first time US astronauts have launched from U.S. soil into Earth orbit since the last space shuttle launch July 8, 2011.

After the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket detached from the upper stages, around two-and-a-half minutes after launch, it deployed four fins for aerodynamic stability, then reignited a subset of its Merlin engines to steer toward a landing on the drone ship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ a few hundred miles northeast of Cape Canaveral.

A single-engine burn slowed the rocket for the final descent to the drone ship’s deck, and four black landing legs made of carbon fibre extended just before touchdown.

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The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published guidance for employers, employees, and the self-employed within the food industry. The guidance is to help understand safe working practices during the coronavirus pandemic.

No matter whether it’s more traditional food production, or modern foodtech facilities, the guidance focusses on hygiene practices and requirements that must be adhered to by businesses and people.

The FSA has suggested that business owners should ensure risk assessments address the risks of COVID-19, using the government social distancing guidance to inform decisions and control measures.

Food manufacturers

The guidance states that food manufacturers are required to implement and maintain hygiene procedures based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles.

It notes that manufacturers should consider the need for additional verification of existing controls or validation of any new controls that have been introduced. Any changes need to be documented to be presented to the relevant food authority or the FSA.

The guidance includes the following:

• Food manufacturers should ensure that materials passed their use-by date are disposed of properly
• Stock checked for damage and check temperature control records
• They should ensure that any new suppliers or contractors meet requirements. This should be specified in their HACCP or HACCP-based Food Safety Management System (FSMS)
• Manufacturers should check that they have stocks of cleaning chemicals and personal protective equipment (PPE)
• If suppliers or ingredients have changed, food manufacturers will need to review their allergen management and labelling in line with their HACCP or HACCP-based FSMS
• Machinery and equipment that has been idle may need inspection and testing to ensure it is capable of normal function.
• By law, food business operators must ensure that food handlers receive the appropriate supervision and training in food hygiene

The guidance also advises on the use of PPE in the food industry for the protection of workers, and to prevent contamination of food during production.

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Singapore has thought of an innovative way to increase food production as supply chains continue to be affected by the coronavirus – by transforming car park rooftops into farms.

Reuters reported the city-state is struggling to meet demand as it only produces a tenth of the food consumed.

Therefore, as many countries have gone into lockdown and are unable to ship food to Singapore, it is having to think of ways it can be more sustainable.

Authorities released a statement, saying: “The current Covid-19 situation underscores the importance of local food production, as part of Singapore’s strategies to ensure food security.”

It added: “Local food production mitigates our reliance on imports, and provides buffer in the event of food supply disruptions.”

Only one per cent of its 724 sq km of land is used for agriculture, due to the shortage of space available.

Therefore, the Food Agency is planning to launch a tender next month for rooftops on car parks. It is having to resort to urban farms because of Singapore’s lack of greenery.

If granted, it will receive a S$30 million (£16.69 million) to help it produce a range of food products, including leafy vegetables, eggs and fish.

Tesco is also looking to make food production more sustainable by joining up with WWF to assess how environmentally friendly some of the UK’s most popular produce is in terms of its packaging waste, deforestation implications and climate change bearing.

Its Sustainable Basket Metric aims to halve Tesco’s environmental impact of food by 2030.

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With the impending release of the UK government’s clean heat strategy, and the commitment to reaching net-zero by 2050, ecologically friendly agriculture company Low Carbon Farming has announced it has found potential sites for 41 giant, low carbon greenhouses.

According to Environment Journal, the plan for the greenhouses could make the UK self-sufficient in tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as peppers and flowers, which will remove the food miles associated with the importing of fresh vegetables, as well as creating 8,000 jobs, injecting £2.67bn into local economies, and increase the UK’s clean heat output by nearly 3 TWh per annum.

The scheme will do away with the more traditional gas-fired heating methods for industrial greenhouses, and replace that with heat pumps to capture waste heat from nearby recycling centres.

Andy Allen, a director at Low Carbon Farming, said: “Our East Anglian projects provide British farming with a bankable template for the nationwide roll-out of transformative, renewable heat solutions.

“Having secured the financing and proven the business model, and with the case for secure and sustainable British produce having been thrown into such sharp focus, it’s time to plan for the next stage.”

Low Carbon Farming has teamed up with Anglian Water on the primary projects, who will supply the waste heat, simultaneously solving the environmental issues surrounding heating local water courses.

David Riley, head of carbon neutrality at Anglian Water: ‘These projects are helping us fulfil our environmental obligations and represent the kind of innovative approach to sustainability we are embracing right across our business in our own challenge to become zero carbon by 2030.

‘Finding alternative sustainable uses for land close to water recycling centres which also make use of excess energy makes sense for UK businesses.’

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According to figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there were 28.2 million working days lost last year due to work-related health issues. The statistic is a worrying one that is costing UK industry millions of pounds in lost productivity, reports Aero Mag.

What manufacturers are finding frustrating, is that many of the contributing factors can be avoided if firms explore and invest in cost-effective means to deliver a clean workplace for their staff.

The aerospace industry, while seen as being at the forefront of modern technology and innovation, has many examples within all tiers of the supply chain are not doing enough to meet regulations.

“One of the Health and Safety Executive’s main focuses in 2020 is reducing exposure to metalworking fluids and welding fume,” said global industrial air cleaning specialist, Filtermist Systems’ CEO, James Stansfield. “Mild steel weld fume was reclassified as carcinogenic last year, prompting a change in enforcement expectations.

“Inspections for fabrication facilities are being ramped up considerably and failure to comply with Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations could carry a significant financial penalty. More importantly, the welfare of staff is continuing to suffer if firms fail to act.”

The International Agency for Research on Cancer published findings that proved mild steel welding fumes cause lung cancer, and possibly kidney cancer. The HSE estimates that 40-50 welders are hospitalised every year due to breathing metal fumes at work.

HSE will no longer accept any welding being undertaken without suitable exposure control measures in place, as there is currently no known level of safe exposure.

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