NEWS

Dismal future for food safety due to urbanization and travel

With genetically modified products, mad cow disease, microbes and antibiotics – how dangerous is the food on our dinner plate? After all, many widespread health problems are food-related. While 2.2 million people in the world died of diarrhea in 1998 alone, one in three people in developed countries suffers from food-linked conditions. And all the signs are that food safety will continue to preoccupy scientists and consumers for years to come. Food safety was the theme of the Third Panhellenic Symposium on «Health and Food Technology» in March. Dozens of food industry experts participated. One of them was Spyros Ramandani, Technical College professor of meat technology. «The portents for the food safety sector are far from good,» he said. Prospects were dim for factors shaping food quality, like urbanization, the environment and international travel. It is estimated that the percentage of people living in urban areas between 1955 and 2055 will rise by 30 to 60 percent, which will increase demands for the transport, preservation and production of food. For example, cases of salmonella doubled in the USA from 1980-1995, when food production remained in the hands of a limited number of manufacturers while the distribution network constantly expanded. Pressure for more and cheaper foods as well as the demand by manufacturers for ever greater profits lead to things going seriously awry. One example was the use of meat in cattle feed, which resulted in the BSE crisis. As was mentioned during the symposium, an American citizen’s first criterion in choosing food is price. Food checks can ensure food safety up to a certain point, but only if there is cooperation on the part of all organizations involved in food production, packaging and transport. This presupposes, according to Ramandani, the coordination of all the services involved.