SIQ Report

Will food safety be an illusion in the future?

04. March 2024 Jana Kolenc Muženič

As consumers, we are very sensitive to all food-related information and have zero tolerance for food that is not of good quality or safe, because we depend on it.

Our beliefs and expectations are rather “traditional”, as we are used to authentic and tasty, but in reality, the diet of modern times (in all its extremes of aesthetics, nutrition, accessibility and consumption) is the result of many developments and influences. Products have long achieved favor by addressing the local, seasonal, flavors of traditional recipes, charity, but on the other hand, through overconsumption and vices, we have caused huge amounts of food waste and the distribution of ingredients across the globe to our plates.

“After and during” such a difficult period, everyone involved in the food chain faces a number of challenges. In addition to what is happening at a global level, there are countless topics in the field of sustainable development (water, energy, waste, packaging, costs, investments, accessibility of resources and information, the need for networking, human resources, the scale and complexity of the new framework, legislation in the pipeline, etc.).

While the changes announced also include food quality and safety, their emphasis is somewhat lost in the flood of hot spots and the need for immediate action, even though this is the primary responsibility of everyone (directly or indirectly) involved in the food chain. But this responsibility is anything but a given, as it is very difficult to manage. This can also make sustainability a source of new risks.

In agriculture, for example, innovation involves new technological processes to increase production. These focus on water conservation, production using less fertiliser, perhaps the addition of micronutrients, and ensure that we “produce more with less”. They are not necessarily developing “new” products, but rather modifying existing ones, in a way trying to circumvent the existing legislation, which until recently was very closed in the EU and based on a number of precautionary measures. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be more careful, frugal and responsible towards the abundance that nature offers. What is wrong is that we own it.

For example, when we interfere with its “being” through genetic technologies and modify it under the guise of “necessity” or improved taste, without considering the possible short- or long-term consequences and the new risks and imbalances, we also run a very serious risk of the reverse scenario. We no longer respect the diversity and beauty of nature here. We also no longer give absolute priority to food quality and safety, but follow our current beliefs and the reach of our information and knowledge.

As those involved in the food chain, let us therefore act in an extremely responsible way towards the consumer, even when we may not have all the answers. Let us not deviate from our integrity, so let us be thorough in our analysis of the facts.

And what can we do as consumers? Make sure our diets are varied and simple. For most pollutants, the higher the concentration of a contaminant and the longer the contaminant is consumed, the more the potential contamination has a disproportionate, adverse effect on our health.

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