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Updated 07 October 2015

Safety risks in food production

A systematic approach is needed to identify potential hazards at each point in the food chain so as to avoid outbreaks of food-borne illness and contamination of foodstuffs.

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The use of selective breeding techniques, fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides in farming has dramatically increased the efficiency of food production.

These modern production methods have reduced the cost and increased the variety of foods available.

Because food production is so complex, a systematic approach is needed to identify potential hazards at each point in the food chain so as to avoid outbreaks of food-borne illness and contamination of foodstuffs.

Exposure to chemicals

Food-borne exposure to agricultural and environmental chemicals is of great public concern and, owing to the development of sensitive methods of detection, trace amounts of potentially harmful chemicals can be detected in many foods.

Fortunately, the levels of human exposure to these chemicals are generally well below the tolerable daily intakes and the regulatory limits set by international committees.

Nevertheless, there are still cases of inappropriate use of agro-chemicals, and analyses of foodstuffs sometimes detect pesticide residues of compounds that should not have been applied. Constant surveillance and monitoring in the use of pesticides is therefore very important.

Microbiological contamination

Microbiological contamination of food is the main cause of food-borne illness and the emergence of new strains of food-borne pathogens such as E. coli 0157 and Salmonella enteriditis phage type 4 are of particular concern.

There is however good evidence that the application of good manufacturing practises have resulted in a decline in microbiological infections resulting from infected foods.

Source: The European Food Information Council (www.eufic.org)

 
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