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Researchers Find Possible Link Between Food Safety And Climate Change

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Problems with food security have been previously linked to climate change, but now researchers have found that food safety might also be a concern.

In a study published in the journal Food Research International, researchers from Ghent University and Wageningen University have discovered a relationship between food contamination in fruits and vegetables and long-term changes in rainfall and temperature. With the climate continuously changing, will it be possible to continue to safely consume fruits and vegetables? This is what the researchers sought to answer with the study.

How can climate change affect food security? Take flooding, for instance. Areas subjected to more floods because of changes in the climate see higher concentrations of dangerous bacteria thriving in fruits and vegetables. The bacteria may be eradicated by sunlight, but exposure is uncertain because of erratic weather. In another scenario, hotter temperatures that result from global warming may give rise to toxic fungi that flourish in warmer weather.

In the study, researchers brought together latest scientific findings and information about how climate change can affect food safety. The journal issue it was published in also includes papers financed by the European Union for the Veg-i-Trade project.

These studies represent some of the first to tackle the relationship between the changing climate and food safety and researchers are of the belief that further investigation into the issue is necessary to expand on the work they have already done. The researchers added that as more scenarios are analyzed, the clearer the picture will be regarding how climate change can influence food safety.

Studies involving the Veg-i-Trade project included statistical analyses and field research that point to a connection between contamination in fruits and vegetables and variables in climate like rainfall and temperature. One of the preliminary studies on toxic substances from fungal sources revealed that by the end of the 21st century, tomatoes in Poland will be subject to higher risks of contamination.

One of the conclusions researchers arrived at is that while all must learn to adapt to climate change, specific measures that will help improve food safety will differ from country to country. Even within countries, different areas may call for different strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change on food safety.

The Ghent-Wageningen study is part of the European Veg-i-Trade project. Between 2010 and 2014, 22 research groups from 10 countries conducted studies on fruits and vegetables and how food safety is affected by climate change and globalization.

Photo: Czarina Alegre | Flickr

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