climate change (5)

10858932281?profile=RESIZE_400xAt the 1996 World Food Summit, the Heads of State and Government reaffirmed the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger (World Food Summit,1996). To achieve this commitment, agrifood systems will need to be transformed to sustainably deliver safe and nutritious food for all.

This publication from the Food and Agriculture Organization explores a selection of the most relevant drivers and trends identified through the FAO food safety foresight programme. While for some of the drivers and trends the food safety implications are apparent, for others these may not be as obvious. An overview of the various drivers and trends are discussed for the following selection of emerging areas of interest, as identified through the FAO food safety foresight programme:

  • Climate change
  • Consumer behaviours
  • New food sources and food production systems
  • Growing food in urban spaces
  • Technological innovations
  • Microbiomes in agrifood systems
  • circular economy
  • Food fraud.

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10176410674?profile=RESIZE_710x A new FAO publication Thinking about the future of food safety – A foresight report, was released on Monday 7 March, outlining how major global drivers and trends will shape food safety in tomorrow’s world.

All food needs to be safe for human consumption; thus, appropriate food safety measures must form the core of food production in our agrifood systems. As agrifood systems are transformed to meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, there is need to develop and maintain a deep understanding of the future opportunities, threats and challenges ahead of us.

This foresight report explores the impact of major global drivers and trends on food safety, including climate change, changing consumer behaviour and food consumption patterns, new food sources and food production systems, technological advances, microbiome science, circular economy and food fraud:

Climate change: Increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, unpredictable and severe extreme weather events, and others, are disrupting both food and nutrition security. This chapter of the publication describes the multi-faceted impacts of climate change on food safety by affecting the severity and occurrence of various food safety hazards – e.g., mycotoxins, algal blooms, foodborne pathogens. The chapter draws in information from published FAO reports on the topic – Climate change: Unpacking the burden on food safety (2020) and Climate change: Implications for food safety (2008).

Changing consumer preferences and food consumption patterns: Today’s consumers change their purchasing behaviours in response to a multitude of factors – from environmental sustainability and climate change to socioeconomic factors, as well as concerns regarding their own health and animal welfare. Changes in consumer diets also trigger changes in dietary risks arising from potential contaminants found in food. To continue to stay relevant and adequately protect consumer health, food safety risk assessment processes need to keep up with the changing consumer consumption patterns.

New food sources and food production systems are increasingly being explored with the goal of achieving improved environmental sustainability and/or nutritional benefits. “New food” here is meant to cover food that has been historically consumed in specific regions of the world but has recently materialized in the global retail space. “New food production systems” include recently discovered techniques and materials in the food sector. In this regard, the various food safety implications for edible insects, seaweed, jellyfish, plant-based alternatives, and cell-based food production are discussed under this topic.

Agriculture within urban spaces: Rapid urbanization, expansion of global cities and food security concerns are drawing attention to growing food within urban areas. While urban agriculture includes food grown both around and within urban spaces, in this publication the focus is on the latter or intra-urban agriculture. This form of farming comes in various forms, from backyard gardens and community farms to innovative indoor vertical farming approaches (hydroponic, aeroponic, aquaponic). Some key food safety concerns associated with intra-urban agriculture, arising from soils used, water sources, air pollution, and various other chemical hazards are discussed as well as the importance of establishing adequate regulatory frameworks specific to urban food systems.

Exploring circular economy through plastic recycling: Increased attention to environmental sustainability and depletion of natural resources have put emphasis on the concept of circular economy, which is being explored in various sectors of the agrifood systems. The topic of circular economy and the various food safety considerations are explored in this publication through the example of recycling and reuse of plastics, in particular those that are in contact with food, such as food packaging.

Microbiome science: Microbiomes (includes all microorganisms – bacteria, viruses and fungi – that live within the human gut and around us) in agrifood systems and along the food chain are not isolated and can interact with each other. The human gut microbiome sits at the end of the food chain and therefore, is exposed to both biological and chemical contaminants present in the diet. Emerging and still evolving technologies have enabled the study of microbiomes and the interactions with their ecosystems, thereby offering opportunities to utilize this knowledge for improving food safety risk assessments and subsequently consumer health.

Technological innovations and scientific advances: Emerging technologies in food production, processing, distribution and at the retail level are providing better tools for increased food safety along food chains by improving traceability, greater detection of contaminants in food, better outbreak investigations, and reduced vulnerabilities for food fraud. A few such emerging technologies – nanotechnology, intelligent packaging, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing of food, among others – are outlined in the publication while discussing both opportunities and challenges that come with them.

Food fraud: The issue of food fraud tends to evoke a strong response among consumers with current narrative focusing on the widespread and ever-increasing prevalence of the issue. However, food fraud is a complex area and the publication highlights this complexity and attempts to shift the narrative to discuss the concept of trust built into food control systems.

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9326610894?profile=RESIZE_400x This independent report, published on 15 July 2021, looks at the entire food chain, from field to fork. This includes production, marketing, processing, sale and purchase of food (for consumption in the home and out of it). It also looks at the consumer practices, resources and institutions involved in these processes. Part one of this independent report was published in July 2020.

The review was led by Henry Dimbleby supported by an advisory panel and Defra officials. Henry Dimbleby is co-founder of Leon restaurants, the lead non-executive director at Defra and co-author of The School Food Plan.

The strategic objectives of the plan are to:

1. Escape the junk food cycle to protect the NHS.
2. Reduce diet-related inequality.
3. Make the best use of our land.
4. Create a long-term shift in our food culture.

Fourteen recommendations have been put together, which are intended to create the kind of food system the people of this country say they want – and need:

  • Recommendation 1. Introduce a sugar and salt reformulation tax. Use some of the revenue to help get fresh fruit and vegetables to low income
  • Recommendation 2. Introduce mandatory reporting for large food companies
  • Recommendation 3. Launch a new “Eat and Learn” initiative for schools
  • Recommendation 4. Extend eligibility for free school meals
  • Recommendation 5. Fund the Holiday Activities and Food programme for the next three years
  • Recommendation 6. Expand the Healthy Start scheme
  • Recommendation 7. Trial a “Community Eatwell” programme, supporting those on low incomes to improve their diets
  • Recommendation 8. Guarantee the budget for agricultural payments until at least 2029 to help farmers transition to more sustainable land use
  • Recommendation 9. Create a Rural Land Use Framework based on the Three Compartment Model 
  • Recommendation 10. Define minimum standards for trade, and a mechanism for protecting them
  • Recommendation 11. Invest £1 billion in innovation to create a better food system
  • Recommendation 12. Create a National Food System Data programme
  • Recommendation 13. Strengthen government procurement rules to ensure that taxpayer money is spent on healthy and sustainable food
  • Recommendation 14. Set clear targets and bring in legislation for long-term change.

Next steps

Over the next six months, the Government will develop a Food Strategy White Paper informed by this independent review, the wider stakeholder community and other evidence. 

The Food and Drink Sector Council (FDSC) – a formal industry partnership with government – will publish its own vision for the future of the supply chain in September. This will focus upon key areas where the food chain can make a difference.

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Looking to 2020, among the challenges faced by the food sector, which can affect their reputation and market, are food allergies, food fraud and climate change. Food allergies amongst the population especially in children are on the increase, and allergy related recalls have increased by 20% in 2019, along with some tragic high profile allergic reaction deaths. Hence industry, especially the food service sector, will need to take more precautions in future. Climate change will also potentially impact on industry affecting its raw materials and ingredients supplies and production in particular. Food fraud continues to remain a high profile and challenging issue for industry, especially where there is reliance on imported raw materials and ingredients. 

3772769190?profile=RESIZE_710x Read the article here


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A Chatham House report warns of 'chokepoints' in the supply of food, such as the Suez Canal, the US rail network and the Turkish Straits, could become 'epicentres of systemic disruption'. It also reports that the world’s food supplies are in danger as climate change and the increasing reliance on global trade threaten to create shortages and sudden, dramatic increases in prices. The report’s authors warned of a growing risk  to food security with the potential for systemic disruption. Investment in infrastructure lags demand growth: critical networks in major crop-producing regions are weak and ageing, and extra capacity is urgently needed.  

Read the report at: Climate change vulnerabilities of food security

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