This week’s Chemical & Engineering News, published by the American Chemical Society (ACS) for chemists and engineers, is featuring food safety as both an important public health threat and a business opportunity. 

According to ACS, “Recalls of ground beef, peanut butter, and other foods have done more than raise public awareness and concern about food safety. They are also quietly fueling a boom in the market for food testing equipment and fostering new food safety regulations.” 

C&EN points out that contaminated food is a growing public health threat, partly due to the increasing amount of food imported from countries with less stringent hygiene and sanitation regulations.

As the public health risk increases from a globalizing food supply, so too does the technology necessary to mitigate the risk, explains ACS.

“Food scientists are developing faster, more sensitive methods for detecting food contaminants, an effort that has helped spur double-digit growth for instrument makers in the food safety market,” said ACS.

The opportunity for growth is not entirely fueled by consumer concern over food safety–the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is pursuing greater regulatory authority over the food supply chain. The food safety bills pending in Congress would mandate more testing and inspection of high-risk and imported foods.

C&EN reports that companies like Covance, a pharmaceutical research organization, are likely to benefit from increased regulatory scrutiny. 

“FDA’s target is to test 5% of imported food, but it only tests about 1% now. New legislation could lead to testing of up to 10% of imported food. So FDA might tap certified labs to support testing for the government,” Marlo Vasquez, general manager of nutritional chemistry at Covance, told C&EN.

This week’s food safety-focused issue of C&EN also features an in-depth look at testing, food recalls, and what can be done to ensure a safer food supply.