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Is climate change impacting food safety?

March 10, 2015

Recent research has discovered that climate change could have an impact on food safety. Researchers at Wageningen University have established a connection between fruit and vegetable contamination and long-term alterations in weather. They found that excessive rainfall, for example, could produce increased concentrations of harmful bacteria which would otherwise be broken down using UV light.

Scientists are now asking whether the changing climate will allow for the continued consumption of safe fruit and vegetables, or whether there is cause for concern.

How does the climate affect your food?

In general, most people don’t consider climate change when they contemplate the factors that could be altering the safety of the produce they buy. However, studies have found that flooding can lead to higher levels of bacteria and warmer temperatures can encourage the growth of toxic fungi which thrives in heat.

In the most recent study, researchers gathered evidence and scientific findings on how climate change affects food safety. This data examined numerous issues, including mycotoxin production in tomatoes, parasite transmission, pesticide use, and the connection between “flooding and leafy greens contamination.”

Backed up by other studies

Statistical analyses and field studies conducted through the Veg-i-Trade project indicated a relationship between climate variables and the contamination of fruit and vegetables. A preliminary study showed that in Poland, tomatoes were expected to see increased contamination by the end of the 21st century.

The results aren’t completely negative, however. Research conducted in Spain suggests that increasingly rising temperatures could help to eliminate fungi, thereby reducing the contamination risk. What’s more, a larger dose of UV radiation from the sun could work to break down some of the natural bacteria present in edible plants, banishing unwanted germs from produce.

The conclusion of the current research seems to be that although we all will need to take steps in adapting to climate change, specific measures to enhance food safety may differ from one country to the next. Different regions could call for alternative strategies on mitigating the food-safety effects of climate change.