HomeProgressThe Future of Food Safety, the FAO 2022 report

The Future of Food Safety, the FAO 2022 report

The most important emerging issues in the food and agriculture sector and their implications for food security are brought into focus by the FAO 2022 report 'Thinking about the future of food safety - A foresight report'. From new foods, like edible insects, to new technologies, like blockchain, any progress must be managed with a view to guaranteeing food safety e food security, is the premise. (1)

According to the United Nations, over 800 million people suffer from hunger and most of them live in developing countries. In addition, 151 million children under the age of 5 suffer from stunting (low height for their age), 51 million suffer from low weight due to their height, and 38 million are overweight. This suggests the need to change global agri-food systems in order to achieve sustainable development, where food security is a fundamental part.

The FAO report covers eight broad categories of driver and trends: climate change, new food sources and production systems, growing number of farms and vegetable gardens in our cities, changing consumer behavior, circular economy, microbiome science, technological and scientific innovation and food fraud.

1) Climate change

Climate change it had an impact on 80% of the earth's surface. Methane, a gas produced in large quantities by animal husbandry, is one of the main factors responsible for the rise in temperature. In 2021, with the signing of Global Methan Pledge 105 countries have committed to reducing methane emissions and investing in technologies for more effective measurement of emissions.

Even the struggle against food waste is important to reduce the effects of climate change. (2) According to a 2019 FAO report, 14% of food produced is disposed of before it even reaches large-scale distribution due to contamination problems. One of the strategies to reduce food waste is to give clear and correct information to consumers regarding the expiry date as indicated in the EFSA guidelines (3).

The increase in temperature has direct consequences on food safety (food security e food safety). The reduction of available water, in fact, decreases the availability of food and increases the risk of biological contamination (4).

Climate change it has an impact on global food systems that implies a unified response to growing challenges, with an integrated and transversal approach, which includes all disciplines involved in agri-food systems.

2) Consumer Behavior / Preferences

Habits of consumption have changed, mainly as a result of access to the Internet and especially after the pandemic. Many consumers are looking for healthy, sustainable products that guarantee social responsibility, but are also conditioned by fashions.

Resources online and they can be a very useful tool to help consumers make more informed choices by learning to read labeling correctly and knowing the production processes better. However, they can also convey incorrect or false information, capable of leading to improper diets, with the consequent health problems caused by insufficiency or excess of nutrients. One example comes from the consumption trends of nutraceuticals, which consumers seek to improve their health, and for many of which all health risks have not yet been assessed (5). In this era, it is enough for an influencer to talk about a "wonderful new diet" to change the consumption habits of billions of people around the world, leading to the purchase of foods that can cause various damage to health and that are not sustainable. . (6, 7)

Another problem to be resolved is the responsibility of intermediaries in the food system, for example in platforms website di ecommerce feed.

They are required extensive resources and collaboration between all actors in the food chain, adequate regulatory frameworks, effective communication strategies: promoting media literacy, providing evidence-based knowledge appropriately, guiding viewers to reliable sources.

3) New sources of food and food production systems

To satisfy the growing demand for food, by the year 2050 global production is expected to increase by 70% compared to 2009 production (FAO, 2009).

agriculture it is not enough to satisfy this demand, due to the need for water and land. It is therefore imperative to include new food sources.

3.1) Edible insects, algae and jellyfish

Consumption of insects, algae and jellyfish, traditional in several countries, is also emerging in Europe for its nutritional and sustainability benefits. Since 2021, EFSA has given the green light for some of them (8). Being already part of the food culture of many countries, this could be one of the most viable short-term options for obtaining protein (9), but it is necessary to regulate production, to avoid the risk of contamination by agrochemicals present in crops in which they grow, or some nitrates which may be present in some algae and there is still no regulation on the maximum levels of nitrate in algae.

3.2) Plant-based alternatives

The use of vegetables to make foods that resemble those of animal origin has been one of the most used techniques, in order to reduce greenhouse gases. However, some studies indicate that this diet should be complementary and not substitute in terms of nutrients, because minerals and amino acids may be less bioavailable: an aspect to be considered especially in vulnerable populations. Among the advantages of this alternative is the reduction of food waste by using the by-products of other processing as raw material.

3.3) Cell-based food production

Does not exist internationally harmonized terminology indicating this type of food or the production process, therefore various terms are currently in use: cultured, cell-based, animal-free, without slaughter, in vitro, cultivated, lab-grown, cruelty-free, cellular agriculture, among others. These new technologies aim to produce animal proteins without the need for large areas of land, without the production of greenhouse gases and decreasing animal suffering.

There are two techniques used in cell agriculture: cell culture which is carried out by culturing cells obtained from animals through biopsies and precision fermentation using microorganisms undergoing genetic modification (10)

In cell culture, the initial cell lines are constantly under cultured and for this reason there is a risk of genetic or epigenetic deviations occurring (11). Inulin and sorbitol are used for cell storage (12), and it must be checked that they are not entrained in the final product at concentrations that can cause a health risk.

Production Cell-based meat can help decrease the emission of methane gas produced by cattle farming. Conversely, it requires a large amount of energy, which produces a large amount of CO2.

4) Urban agriculture

According to the FAO, by 2050 two thirds of the world population will live in urban areas. An important point in the transformation of agri-food systems is to minimize the distances to get food to the consumer, who in turn must reduce waste, energy consumption and the production of greenhouse gases for transport, storage, .. Urban farming is a technique with many benefits, because it can help cool cities in the summer, provide habitat for bees and other pollinators, and retain rainfall thereby providing flood risk mitigation. Urban agriculture can also include non-food plant production and animal husbandry, beekeeping, aquaculture and insect farming.

Among the advantages there is the possibility of creating vertical gardens, which require small spaces, and the reuse of water. Disadvantages include the risk of chemical contamination of vegetables or farmed animals due to heavy metals found in urban soils or water, as well as the microbiological risk from the use of non-potable water for irrigation or for the lack of good hygiene practices.

Urban agriculture it could be a useful tool to improve access to healthy and sustainable food, but it is necessary to develop adequate regulatory frameworks and strategies to carry out this technique in a safe and sustainable way.

5) Circular economy and plastic recycling

Most of plastic used in the food industry is used only once and does not have adequate disposal, especially when the the packaging it is composed of different materials that complicate the differentiation. It is estimated that in 2015 only 9% of the approximately 6300 metric tons of plastic waste generated globally was recycled, with a strong environmental and health impact (13, 14, 15, 16).

The approach of a circular economy for plastic food packaging is based on redesign-reduce-reuse-recycle keeping the resources in use as long as possible to obtain the maximum value and minimize their impact.

Is critical Adequate regulatory frameworks are established which take into account the need to dedicate financial, logistical, research and technological resources. On the subject, he expects the signatory countries of the resolution End Plastic Pollution: Towards An International Legally Binding Instrument (17) present their strategies for addressing this challenge.

6) Microbiome, a food safety perspective

The microbiome it is a complex network of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa) that live in symbiosis with organisms (humans, soil, plants, water, animals) (18). Several studies show the correlation between the intestinal microbiome, nutrition and health status (19,20).

Even the microbiome non-human affects the health of ecosystems and therefore also food safety and quality. The holistic understanding of the microbiome-environment-host interactions will give the possibility to better understand the health risks, better assessing the microbiological and chemical dangers and allowing to establish a new legislation on the maximum thresholds of veterinary drugs and pesticides, food additives, ..

The World Health Organization (WHO) in the Global Action Plan (GAP) on AMR (Antimicrobial Resistance) (WHO, 2015) recognizes the role of agri-food systems in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

7) Technological innovations

Progress technologies are changing agri-food systems by providing better tools for processing, the the packaging, traceability, contaminant detection, .. However, all the challenges and opportunities of these technologies are still not well understood.

7.1) Packaging

Active packaging and intelligent packaging (21) are two terms that have emerged with the advances in the food industry to reduce waste by extending the useful life of products. Many of these packaging use nanomaterials to improve mechanical strength and barrier properties, or for its sensitivity potential in active packaging for pathogen detection, but they can be a health or environmental hazard (22, 23).

7.2) 3D printing of food products

And another one technologies under development, which in general consists in the use of the extrusion of a food formulation: chocolate, corn starch, sugar, insect flour, seaweed, fruits, .. to form a predetermined pattern of food.

This technology it has started to develop in the last 15 years, but has not yet been subjected to a risk assessment.

7.3) Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation

These it is new technologies that will help prevent fraud, improve traceability, combat the use of pesticides and other harmful substances, predict the risk of microbiological or chemical contamination in crops, as well as prevent the exploitation of workers (24).

The innovations technologies are fundamental in the transformation of the agri-food system, they will allow to accelerate the trade of goods and guarantee food safety. And yet, in the absence of adequate rules on the governance of data rights, the privacy, .. it can lead to misuse of this data, or to unequal competition between developed and developing countries.

8) Food fraud

Does not exist a single definition for food fraud (25), which can be classified as deceptive activities carried out with the aim of defrauding the system for an economic advantage. They are one of the main problems that arise in agri-food systems where all actors, governments, industry, and consumers are affected.

Despite the technological advances mentioned above there is no easy solution to combat this problem. The FAO report outlines five regulatory strategies that countries can benefit from to tackle food fraud and increase confidence in their food systems:

- Regulatory framework for food quality and safety
- Consumer protection legislation
- Contractual laws
- Criminal regulatory framework
- Public-private collaboration.

Is critical in the application of strategies to combat food fraud, strategic cooperation at all levels of governance along the food chain.

Conclusions

Agri-food systems they must move towards resilience, inclusion and sustainability with the use of science, technology and innovation with the participation of all actors in the food chain, governments, large-scale distribution, farmers, public and private investments and consumers. Only in this way will it be possible to face the climate and food crisis.

Isis Consuelo Sanlucar Chirinos

Notes

(1) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO. Thinking about the Future of Food Safety, a foresight report. 2022 https://www.fao.org/3/cb8667en/cb8667en.pdf

(2) Dario Dongo, Marta Strinati, Food waste, understanding and acting. Webinar 16.11.20 by EIT Food. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 12.11.2020, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/consum-attori/spreco-alimentare-comprendere-e-agire-webinar-16-11-20-di-eit-food

(3) Dario Dongo, Expiry date and TMC, EFSA guidelines for the reduction of food waste. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 20.12.20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/data-di-scadenza-e-tmc-linee-guida-efsa-per-la-riduzione-degli-sprechi-alimentari

(4) Dario Dongo, Giulia Caddeo. Climate change, the IPCC report for the united nations. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 12.08.2019, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/cambiamento-climatico-il-rapporto-ipcc-per-le-nazioni-unite

(5) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Nutraceuticals. One, none and a hundred thousand. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 30/07/20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/nutraceutica-uno-nessuno-e-centomila

(6) Dario Dongo. Influencer marketing, our report to the Antitrust. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 25.07.20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/consum-attori/influencer-marketing-la-nostra-segnalazione-all-antitrust

(7) Dario Dongo, Selena Travaglio. Influencer marketing, what rules? GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 23.07.20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/consum-attori/influencer-marketing-quali-regole

(8) Dario Dongo, Insects at the table, Novel Food authorizations in the EU. The state of the art. (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.02.22, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/innovazione/insetti-a-tavola-autorizzazioni-novel-food-in-ue-lo-stato-dell-arte

(9) Dario Dongo, Marta Strinati. Microalgae and insects the search for sustainable proteins in Horizon 2020. 27.05.20/XNUMX/XNUMX, GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade) https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/innovazione/microalghe-e-insetti-la-ricerca-di-proteine-sostenibili-in-horizon-2020

(10) Dario Dongo. Imagindairy, the “milk” from cellular agriculture. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.12.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/innovazione/imagindairy-il-latte-da-agricoltura-cellulare

(11) GIFT editorial staff, NBT, the dark side of the new editing techniques. Scientific review. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). one https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/sicurezza/nbt-il-lato-oscuro-delle-nuove-tecniche-di-editing-rassegna-scientifica

(12) Marta Strinati. Sorbitol and other polyols, the bulk sweeteners. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 04.04.2018, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/dolcificare/sorbitolo-e-altri-polioli-i-dolcificanti-di-massa

(13) Marta Strinati, Dario Dongo, Plastic pollution, the responsibilities of Big Food. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 12.01.22, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/imballaggi-e-moca/inquinamento-da-plastica-le-responsabilità-di-big-food

(14) Marta Strinati, Microplastics, babies and girls 10 times more exposed than adults. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). one https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/sicurezza/microplastiche-neonati-e-bambini-10-volte-più-esposti-rispetto-agli-adulti_1

(15) Marta Strinati. Plastic water bottles, high levels of chemical migration. 12.02.22. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade) https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/imballaggi-e-moca/borracce-in-plastica-alti-livelli-di-migrazione-di-sostanze-chimiche

(16) Marta Strinati, Stop to plastic bottles. The Greenpeace petition. 20.09.21. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade) https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/consum-attori/stop-alle-bottiglie-di-plastica-la-petizione-di-greenpeace

(17) Isis Consuelo Sanlucar Chirinos. Historic United Nations agreement against plastic pollution. 05.03.22. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade) https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/progresso/storico-accordo-delle-nazioni-unite-contro-l-inquinamento-da-plastica

(18) Dario Dongo, Carlotta Suardi. Prebiotics and probiotics, microbiome and immune system. 28.04.22/XNUMX/XNUMX, GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade) https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/prebiotici-e-probiotici-microbioma-e-sistema-immunitario

(19) Marta Strinati. Intestinal microbiota, two Italian researches funded by Batasiolo wines. 04.11.21. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade) https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/progresso/microbiota-intestinale-due-ricerche-italiane-finanziate-dai-vini-batasiolo

(20) Marta Strinati, Dario Dongo. Correlations between diet, gut microbiome and health. Scientific study on 1098 individuals. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 15.01.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/correlazioni-tra-dieta-microbioma-intestinale-e-salute-studio-scientifico-su-1098-individui

(21) Dario Dongo, Ylenia Patti Giammello. Active and intelligent packaging. Rules, state of the art, the ENEA patent. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade) 16.07.20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/imballaggi/imballaggi-attivi-e-intelligenti-regole-stato-dell-arte-il-brevetto-enea

(22) Dario Dongo. Junk-food, tilt Immune system. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 29.01.18, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/cibo-spazzatura-tilt-sistema-immunitario

(23) Marta Strinati, Nanomaterials, too many gray areas, according to ANSES. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 14.06.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/nanomateriali-troppe-zone-d-ombra-secondo-anses

(24) Dario Dongo. Agri-food blockchain, from Walmart to the FDA in the USA, Wiise Chain in Italy. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). one https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/blockchain-agroalimentare-da-walmart-alla-fda-in-usa-wiise-chain-in-italia-verso-il-web-3

(25) Dario Dongo, Giulia Baldelli. Food fraud, an unsolved problem. 'EU Food Fraud Network' report. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). one https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/sicurezza/frodi-alimentari-un-problema-irrisolto-rapporto-eu-food-fraud-network

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Graduated in food engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, she is attending the master's degree in 'Food Safety Lawyer and Consultant' at Alma Mater, University of Bologna.

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