According to a report released by the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) this week, climate change may exacerbate a wide variety of global food safety issues, ranging from seafood safety to antibiotic resistance.

The report bases its analysis on the most recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found climate change to be an unequivocal reality.

global warming feature.jpg“Projections for the 21st century show that global warming will accelerate,” said the FAO report, which lists stronger storm systems, extreme precipitation and dry spells, and rising sea levels as the primary symptoms of climate change.

FAO researchers believe these changes will have widespread implications for food production, food security, and food safety.

According to the report, climate change could drastically impact seafood safety by increasing the frequency of toxic algal blooms, promoting the growth of deadly Vibrio vulnificus and facilitating the methylation of mercury, all of which present hazards to human health.

Data collected by the FAO also indicate that spikes in temperature and humidity increase the prevalence of common foodborne diseases like Salmonella and Campylobacter and pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella are likely to become more virulent. 

Though more research is needed to better understand the microbiological implications of climate change, environmental changes are thought to impact horizontal gene transfer, an important contributor to the increase in antibiotic resistance.

According to the report, climate change likely also affects zoonoses, diseases that are naturally transmitted between animals and humans, by increasing the transmission cycle of vectors like mosquitoes and flies. 

The list of food issues affected by climate change is discussed ad nauseam in the the 40-page report. 

The report also emphasizes the need for policymakers and other stakeholders in the food system to prepare for emerging food safety risks linked to climate change.

“Assuring food safety is a complex task. Food safety hazards can arise at any stage of the food chain from primary production through consumption. Assuring food safety therefore entails the active involvement from a number of stakeholders,” said the report.

“Climate change is not only an environmental or ecological problem, as its impacts affect human health, development, and economic growth,” said Kara Reeve, sustainability planner for the District of Columbia. “Local, state, and national governments need to plan accordingly to prepare for and mitigate the effects of climate change.”

Researchers hope the findings will raise awareness and facilitate international cooperation by better understanding the changing food safety landscape and help policymakers develop and implement effective strategies to combat the ill effects.

  • Interestingly most of the food safety issues highlighted are to do with livestock products and seafood, including the spread of antibiotic resistance into the human population from intensive (‘factory’) farming. Not only are animal products more sensitive from a hygiene perspective, the same UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change holds livestock products responsible for 18% greenhouse emissions (more that the entire transport sector). An analysis of the Food and Agriculture Organization report, by the Worldwatch Institute, put the figure closer to 51%.
    For the sake of public health and the future of the planet, there is no better time to reduce our dependence on animal products.

  • Husky Jakobs

    In the next decades, climate change will drive as significant a change in the human being’s security circumstance. This kind of change has a variety of dimensions, one of them is the food safety as mentioned in the FAO’s rept. This problem is pretty complex and connects with the field of political economy. The case to point is one trade agreement ratified by Taiwan and American official, the BSE Protocol. This document presented that trade interests is more important than people’s health. Ane what is more, the standard legislated by OIE was seriously affected by American cattle industry.