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25 June 2020 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
Prof Arno Hugo recently participated in a session on food with integrity during a webinar by the Integra Trust, where he presented a lecture focusing on the importance of food traceability and the information communicated to the consumer.

In the complete process between farm and fork, consumers are looking for someone to hold accountable if their animal welfare, product quality, and product safety expectations are not met.

On World Sustainable Gastronomy Day earlier this month (18 June 2020), Prof Arno Hugo from the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology’s Food Science division at the University of the Free State (UFS) participated in a webinar by the Integra Trust, titled Heal the Land, Heal the People.

The Integra Trust was established to advance climate-smart sustainable and regenerative agriculture. It values the production, distribution, and utilisation of food with integrity in order to heal the land and the people.

Integra Trust strives to promote agriculture that has a limited footprint on the environment.

Prof Hugo’s lecture during the session on food with integrity, focused on the importance of the traceability of food and the information communicated to the consumer. 

Physical and emotional connectedness to farm and the producer
According to him, modern consumers want to know where their food comes from and want to be physically and emotionally connected to the farm and the producer. In the case of meat, for example, they want to know if the meat they buy is ethically produced and whether the animal was treated in a humane manner during the slaughter process. They also want a guarantee that the food they buy is free of harmful substances.

Prof Hugo states: “The consumer’s need for origin-based food is now playing out in a variety of ways, as food processors and retailers are labelling their products according to the origin of the product. One way of achieving this, is through a good traceability system.”

In his presentation, he focused on traceability from a meat industry perspective.

“Thus, in a good traceability system, a product on the store shelf can easily be traced back to the farmer and the farm where the food was originally produced. In modern traceability systems, it is even possible for the consumer to take the product in the store to a scanner that can read the ‘barcode’ and then showing a photo of the farmer and the name and location of the farm where it was produced,” explains Prof Hugo.

Food traceability important from food safety point of view
“Despite the consumer’s emotional need to connect with the farm and the producer, food traceability is also extremely important from a food security and food safety point of view,” he adds.

Although in its simplest form, it is a comprehensive process of keeping record of suppliers and customers in order to allow reconstruction of the product chain in case of need, it is doable. “In Europe, some 25 million cattle per year are now slaughtered with full traceability. The challenge of providing a secure form of identity through this process, is therefore a formidable one. This is achieved with the use of modern technologies such as Blockchain and DNA technology,” explains Prof Hugo. 

Joining him in the session on food with integrity were, among others, Errieda du Toit, chef, food writer, and culinary commentator (talking about perceptions in terms of difference between fast food and story food, asking if it is driven by social media) and Christiaan Campbell, chef and food consultant (talking about achieving synergy and communication between producer and consumer via the food value chain). Steven Barnard of Farmer Kidz presented a session focused on the younger generation, focusing on why it is important to connect children with food production.

News Archive

In January 1, 2003, the Qwa-Qwa campus of the University of the North (Unin) was incorporated into the University of the Free State (UFS).
2003-02-07


FREDERICK FOURIE

IN January 1, 2003, the Qwa-Qwa campus of the University of the North (Unin) was incorporated into the University of the Free State (UFS).

While this is merely the beginning of a long and complex process, it does represent a major milestone in overcoming the apartheid legacy in education, realising the anti-apartheid goal of a single non-racial university serving the Free State.

The incorporation is also part of the minister's broader restructuring of the higher education landscape in South Africa - a process which aims to reshape the ideologically driven legacy of the past.

In contrast to the past educational and social engineering that took place, the current process of incorporating the Qwa-Qwa campus of Unin into the UFS is informed by three fundamentally progressive policy objectives, clearly outlined in the education white paper 3: (A framework for the transformation of higher education):

To meet the demands of social justice to address the social and structural inequalities that characterise higher education.

To address the challenges of globalisation, in particular the role of knowledge and information processing in driving social and economic development.

To ensure that limited resources are effectively and efficiently utilised, given the competing and equally pressing priorities in other social sectors.

Besides informing the way the UFS is managing the current incorporation, these policy objectives have also informed the transformation of the UFS as an institution over the past five years.

In 2001, former president Nelson Mandela lauded the success of the UFS in managing this transformation, by describing the campus as a model of multiculturalism and multilingualism. This was at his acceptance of an honorary doctorate from the UFS.

Indeed our vision for the Qwa-Qwa campus as a branch of the UFS is exactly the same as it is for the main UFS campus - a model of transformation, academic excellence, community engagement and financial sustainability, building on the histories and strengths of both the Qwa-Qwa campus and the UFS (Bloemfontein campus).

Realising this vision will be a giant leap forward in establishing a unified higher education landscape in the Free State.

In more concrete terms, the UFS is working towards this vision by focusing on the following areas of intervention: access and equity; academic renewal; investment in facilities; and sound financial management.

These interventions are being made not to preserve any vestiges of privilege or superiority, but precisely to increase access for students from poor backgrounds and to promote equity and representivity among all staff.

The current growth phase of the UFS has seen student enrolment almost double over the past five years, in particular black students, who now constitute approximately 55 percent of the student population of nearly 18 000 (including off-campus and online students).

But it has not just been a numbers game. Our approach has been to ensure access with success.

Our admissions policy, coupled with the academic support and "career preparation" programmes we offer, have resulted in significant successes for students who otherwise would not have been allowed to study at a university.

This will be continued at Qwa-Qwa as well.

Our academic offerings too have undergone dramatic change. We have become the first university in the country to offer a degree programme based on the recognition of prior learning (RPL).

This is not just a matter of academic renewal but of access as well, especially for working adults in our country who were previously denied a university education.

As for the sound financial management of the UFS (including the Qwa-Qwa campus), this is being done not for the sake of saving a few rands and cents, but for the greater value to our society that comes from having sustainable institutions.

It is sustainable universities that can make long-term investments to fund employment equity, provide information technology for students, upgrade laboratories, construct new buildings, develop research capacity, and provide a safe environment for students and staff, as is happening now at the UFS.

As a result of such management, a practical benefit for prospective students at the Qwa-Qwa campus of the UFS will be lower academic fees in some cases compared with the Unin fees.

As is the case with all these processes, there are concerns from staff and students at Qwa-Qwa and the broader community of the region that the Qwa-Qwa campus serves.

To get the campus viable and to ensure its continuation in the short term, tough choices had to be made by the minister of education regarding which programmes to offer and fund.

But we have been encouraged by the community's understanding that these concerns can be addresed over time as the campus becomes financially viable.

Meetings between the top mangement of the UFS and community representatives, staff and students at Qwa-Qwa have laid the basis for building a climate of trust in such a complex process.

We should not be captives of the past divisions but build this new unified higher education landscape that can meet our country's developmental needs.

It should be a higher education landscape that is based on broadening access, promoting equity and social justice, developing academic excellence, and the effective and efficient management of scarce resources. This should be our common common objective.

Professor Frederick Fourie the rector and vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS)

 

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