A new report from the American Academy of Microbiology provides a thorough overview of food safety from farm-to-fork, highlighting the many opportunities for disease-causing organisms and other food safety hazards to enter the food supply.
Global Food Safety: Keeping Food Safe from Farm to Table is based on a colloquium convened by the Academy in 2009, reviews the current state of affairs in microbiological food safety around the world.
An essential take-home message is that most foodborne illness is not recognized or reported. Unless the illness is severe enough to require a visit to the doctor or hospital, it is unlikely that the source and identity of the pathogen will be determined. Only if many people are severely sickened by a single product are breaches in food safety likely to be detected. It is virtually impossible to know how many people are made sick by food, which foods are at fault, which pathogens are most widespread or dangerous, and where those pathogens entered the food production system. In such a situation, where should research, prevention and education efforts be directed?
In this report, each step in our complicated food production and supply system is described, making it clear that providing safe food is a shared responsibility. Food safety is complex, and a perfectly safe food supply is an unrealistic goal. However, as this report explains, there are opportunities for improving food safety at each step of the production and consumption process and many areas where further research could help identify and quantify risks and generate solutions. The report also identifies food safety vulnerabilities that might be addressed through investments in new technologies or more effective education.
Here’s a suggestion: drop the education bit and strive for food safety information that is compelling, based on stories, and is rapid, reliable, repeated and relevant.
The full report is available at