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FAO expert calls for ‘robust’ food control systems to thwart climate-induced hazards

Climate change, extreme weather events, and increasing temperature relate strongly to food and agriculture. In all likelihood, some experts say, climate change will have negative consequences for food safety – meaning it will become more difficult to prevent food-borne illnesses in the handling, preparing, and storing of food.

Making this point today was Mary Kenny, FAO food safety and consumer protection officer, at an international conference in Istanbul, Turkey.

This compromising of food safety can come from a number of causes, from changes in environmental contaminants and the profiles of pathogens to increased contamination from various toxins and increased hygiene risks, Kenny said during her contribution to 6th Food Safety Congress on climate change and food safety.

The adaptation of food safety strategies to a changing climate should be based on evidence, and therefore there is a need for more research and the sharing among all related actors in both the public and private sectors, she said.

“Food safety hazards can arise at any stage of the food chain, from primary production through to consumption,” Kenny said, emphasizing the importance of a risk-based approach in food safety management. “Food safety authorities need to work continuously to address a range of critical food safety and quality issues. Be it microbiological or chemical in nature, these issues are well understood, and yet they still present challenges in many contexts.”

Kenny called for the development of robust food control systems under the responsibility of national food safety authorities.

FAO’s ongoing work at national and global levels, including umbrella activities tailored to the needs of the Europe and Central Asia region, aims at better management of climate change-induced risks and hazards. The FAO Strategy on Climate Change, endorsed last year, notes the most relevant food safety considerations in climate change adaptation and mitigation.

“The Organization has a key role in assisting developing countries to consider changes to their food safety situations, to promote international cooperation, and, in general, to improve the understanding of what climate change implies to food safety,” Kenny said.

The two-day Congress started on 3 May, with opening speeches from top-level Turkish governmental representatives and Viorel Gutu, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Central Asia and FAO Representative in Turkey and Uzbekistan.

7 May 2018, Istanbul, Turkey

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