Websites such as Crowdcube and Syndicate Room have helped raise more than £21M for UK food and drink start-ups since 2003 and helped contribute more than £84M to other start-ups. That’s according to figures from an alternative finance report by the investment charity Nesta and the University of Cambridge in 2014.
However, it was unknown whether the food and drink products manufactured as a result of crowdfunding met the same safety criteria and testing standards as traditional ones, claimed Fiona Lickorish, head of the Institute for Environment, Health, Risks and Futures at Cranfield University.
Products she had seen on crowdfunding websites, such as an oral caffeine spray, concerned her, Lickorish told The Institute of Food Safety Integrity and Protection’s ‘Food for thought: future risks and resilience issues’ conference in London recently.
“Sprayable energy: what is it? This has come from a crowdfunding site and you can buy it,” she said. “The company wanted to raise £15,000, but managed to raise £300,000.
“These kinds of products tell me there’s some new food science being used. But what I’m worried about is I think they’re cutting out the peer-review process such products would have to go through and are instead going straight to the consumer.”
However, firms that had secured crowdfunding had to abide by the rules and regulations of the sector in which they operated, Crowdcube co-founder Luke Lang told Food Manufacture.
“As part of our in-depth due diligence process, businesses making claims to be in retailers have to ensure the information we present to investors is fair, clear and not misleading,” he said.
Food and drink products produced using capital raised by crowdfunding sites had to comply with the same rules as any other food and drink firm, Gonçalo de Vasconcelos, chief executive of Syndicate Room said.
“The claim that crowdfunding could potentially result in unsafe consumables is absurd and very poorly informed,” he added.
Yet, he confirmed crowdfunding had no control over how food products were created and that, other than relying on firms to be responsible, there were no measures to ensure manufacturers were creating safe products.
“Crowdfunding is the process whereby a company raises finance. It does not relate to how consumables are created,” he said.
However, a Food Standards Agency spokeswoman said all food and drink firms had to register with their local authority and abide by local regulations if they wanted to sell food and drink to the public.