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More emphasis on microbes required in food safety

Post a commentBy Richard Whitehead+ , 30-Jul-2014

Current concepts regarding food safety and security may be inadequate to fully address what is an increasingly complex issue, according to a Lincoln University scientist.

Although the matter of food safety and security may sound simple enough, it is, in fact, a multi-dimensional and complicated issue, made all the more so from increasing pressures stemming from rapid population growth, says Dr Malik Hussain, a food microbiologist at the university’s Centre for Food Research and Innovation.

Broadly speaking, current concepts around food safety and security tend to be based around three main pillars. These are food availability, food access and food use. However, there needs to be greater emphasis on the microbiology aspects, as well.”

For instance, while Hussain acknowledges that food availability is tremendously importantly, he warns that it doesn’t tell the whole story, especially as one-third of all food produced globally for human consumption goes to waste due to food safety issues such as spoilage and a loss of quality due to decay.

Microorganisms play a huge part in the food supply chain. Their impact, both positive and negative, can be enormous, whether from an economic perspective or just basic human health. 

“Successfully attending to the microorganism aspects of food production, therefore, means less wastage. It means a more effective use of what is already produced, rather than a need to dramatically increase production levels.”

The issue is complicated further by the direct effect climate change has on microbiology as it relates to food safety, he added. 

Climate change changes the playing field. Meaning the potential for some current microbes to gain greater influence, or for new pathogens to develop.”

As a result, Hussain cites the need for researchers and the food industry to stay on top of the microbiology aspects of food safety and security. 

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