Skip to main content

Supporting policy with scientific evidence

We mobilise people and resources to create, curate, make sense of and use knowledge to inform policymaking across Europe.

Publication | 2022

Thinking about the future of food safety

The FAO food safety foresight programme is geared towards the proactive identification, evaluation and prioritization of emerging trends and drivers within and around agrifood systems that can have food safety implications. This publication explores a selection of the most relevant drivers and trends identified through the FAO food safety foresight programme.

Climate change is disrupting our production capabilities to produce enough nutritious food to feed the rising global population. The report outlines some of the multi-faceted impacts of climate change on various food safety hazards (both biological and chemical). An increased preparedness to address the impact of climate change on food safety will not only benefit food security, but also will help foster resilience in agrifood systems.

Today, consumer behaviours are shifting in response to a multitude of factors, and these shifts are driving changes in the food purchasing and consumption habits of consumers. Such changes can also be accompanied by potential food safety risks, which will need to be evaluated in order to protect the health of consumers. Some trends in changing consumer demands are discussed in this publication together with the food safety implications associated with them.

New food sources and food production systems are increasingly being explored with the goal of achieving improved environmental sustainability and/or nutritional benefits. This report discusses the food safety implications for:

  • Farming of edible insects, production of seaweed or macroalgae, farmed shellfish, jellyfish, etc. As these new food sources make inroads into new markets, thorough assessment of food safety hazards is needed to establish appropriate hygiene and manufacturing processes as well as relevant regulatory frameworks.
  • Plant-based alternatives to animal derived products;
  • Cell-based food production technology

Some key food safety aspects of agriculture within urban areas are discussed in this report as well as the need for establishing mechanisms for good governance and appropriate regulatory frameworks specific to urban food systems.

Technological innovations have greatly helped progress the ability to detect contaminants in food and assist in outbreak investigations, improve predictive analytics to identify potential risks, and enhance traceability of food supplies. Application of automation, Artificial Intelligence, big data, and Blockchain technology have the potential to enhance food safety
management in the shifting landscape of agrifood systems, but can also raise concerns with regard to equitable access adoption and data privacy.

Microbiomes in agrifood systems and along the food chain are not isolated and can interact with each other. The potential of food additives, residues of veterinary drugs, food and environmental contaminants to induce changes in the gut microbiome, and any possible
consequences to the host health are increasingly being considered for food safety risk assessments. Furthermore, there are specific concerns related to the transfer of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) from food organisms to the gut microbiome or the increase of AMR resulting from exposure to antimicrobials or low-level veterinary residues.

Circular economy: there are various unique food safety aspects that need to be considered before it is made fit-for-purpose for applications in the various quarters of the food sector. These specific food safety implications are explored by focusing on the use and re-use of
plastics in the food sector

Food fraud: the foresight brief on this topic attempts to re-center the discussion on increased awareness and the concept of trust built within food control systems. The brief also provides a snapshot of regulatory strategies that can be used to address food fraud and retain trust in agrifood systems.