Climate Change Increases Food Safety Risks:
Climate change has multifaceted impacts on the occurrence and severity of food safety hazards. A single environmental factor like rising temperatures can trigger varying degrees of effect on different contaminants—for instance, strengthening the chances of survival of foodborne pathogens (like Salmonella and Vibrio) as well as altering the occurrence patterns of chemical contaminants (like aflatoxins and arsenic). Due to the complex nature of these effects, it can be difficult to quantify them.
Raising awareness of the issue through targeted communication:
Raising awareness of an issue is a critical step for creating an environment where effective measures can be formulated to prevent and manage food safety risks. For instance, if the general awareness of aflatoxins is high in a country, the public tends to support the development of adequate regulations to control them. The country can then enjoy access to the international market and a safe domestic food supply.
Effective user-centric communication strategies are needed to engage different stakeholder groups. Audience segmentation has the advantage of conveying messages aimed at inspiring action by specific groups, so information campaigns and initiatives should have messages tailored to audience and objectives.
Engaging all stakeholders:
Collaboration among all stakeholders is necessary—from assessing food safety risks and leveraging knowledge to selecting the appropriate risk management measures and coordinating interventions across the national food supply chain. Local foodborne incidents can quickly become international emergencies, making the need for multinational as well as transdisciplinary (agriculture, health, environment, commerce, trade) collaboration very important. A holistic, integrated cross-sectoral approach to food safety—in other words a “One Health” approach—is ideal for bringing about a synergistic mindset especially in the face of climate change. Stronger collaboration across disciplines will help focus expertise and resources on specific issues, avoid the duplication of efforts, and provide holistic solutions to challenges. Managing food contamination risks under climate change requires the engagement of various actors in the food chain—the food industry to make our food safely, national authorities dealing with sanitary and phytosanitary issues to ensure that laws and incentives are set toward ensuring food safety, national laboratories to verify our food safety process works correctly, and academia to produce knowledge and experts in food safety. This collaboration should also include nongovernmental organizations.
Fostering greater surveillance and data sharing:
Rigorous risk assessments are needed to establish appropriate food safety standards, which must be periodically revised in line with evolving science and the data collected from monitoring and surveillance. Appropriate surveillance data from different stages of the food production chain and on human diseases must be collected in tandem, analysed to evaluate trends, and shared transparently with all relevant national and international partners. Data integration will contribute significantly to the prediction and thus prevention of foodborne disease outbreaks. However, few countries routinely collect and share such data. Effective monitoring and surveillance of food safety risks depends heavily on the availability of adequate resources. The disparities between low-, middle-, and high-income countries in terms of these necessities make it challenging to procure and implement new technologies for outbreak surveillance.
Strengthening food safety management:
Food safety systems are managed differently in different countries. Therefore, appropriately harmonized management at an international level is difficult given the diverse capacities, infrastructure, and validation methods needed to handle the complexities of the supply chains. Adopting good-practices guidelines and establishing effective food safety systems are vital to ensuring the safety of national food supplies as well as products for export. An essential part of this work is the adoption and enforcement of food safety standards and the harmonization of regulatory frameworks for food that is destined for domestic consumption as well as trade—at the regional and international levels.
Investing in early warning systems:
Routine monitoring systems for food safety hazards may miss the occurrence of new or emerging hazards in food. Early warning systems form an important element of the risk-reduction approach to prepare for the food safety challenges induced by climate change. Greater investments are needed to set up widespread early warning systems in climate-vulnerable countries.
Adopting forward-thinking attitudes:
Relying on approaches such as foresight helps anticipate future challenges and perpetuates resilience by continually updating preparedness. Foresight is not about predicting the future: It is a structured approach to gathering and interpreting intelligence, upon which proactive strategies are then built to identify future challenges and mitigate their impacts. Such approaches are also a great tool to optimize future opportunities as they arise. Foresight should not replace traditional surveillance and monitoring systems but rather should be introduced to complement them and take a holistic view of the potential issues that may require risk management measures. Foresight also supports early warning systems by facilitating the prioritization of resources and the development of relevant strategies.
Advancing current knowledge through further research:
Numerous gaps remain in the global understanding of how climate change affects food safety. To gain better understanding, there is a need to encourage more studies that investigate these effects and the exposure risks that they pose—individually and in combination of multiple hazards.
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