The path to food safety and transparency

Dr Sylvain Charlebois and Noor Latif from Dalhousie University examine the steps taken by countries around the world to improve traceability within their supply chains.

In recent years, global economies have experienced an unprecedented growth trajectory, leading to significant improvements in the standard of living worldwide. This economic upswing has been accompanied by an increase in disposable incomes, granting individuals greater access to information pertaining to food quality, safety, and evolving lifestyle preferences, including a heightened preference for premium food products. Paradoxically, despite these economic advancements, the agri-food industry has grappled with a multitude of challenges spanning production, processing, storage, logistics, distribution, and management, resulting in a persistent inability to meet the escalating demands of consumers.

The gravity of this situation is underscored by disconcerting statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), which estimates that approximately 420,000 individuals succumb to food contamination annually,1 with countless others afflicted by various foodborne illnesses. Evident examples of such foodborne crises include the 2017 Salmonella outbreak in the US, which affected over 220 individuals. Furthermore, the Food and Agriculture Report of 20212 reveals a troubling landscape, with the Center for Food Safety in Hong Kong identifying around 2,000 food-related incidents in 2020 alone,3 including issues such as excessive preservative use, drug residues, undisclosed allergens, and microbial contamination. Consequently, both consumer demands and regulatory pressures have mounted, compelling the food industry and governments to prioritise food safety and quality regulations to ensure the provision of fresh and superior products.