fruits and vegetables in grocery bag

The Science of Food Safety

Highlighting recent developments in food safety prevention and identification

Lauren Everett

When grocery shopping, many consumers may not consider the journey the food and beverage products that they are purchasing took to reach the shelves. The food manufacturing and distribution process is a complex one, and requires the monitoring of the quality, cost, packaging, branding, and advertising of the food items throughout each stage of production.

The importance of food and beverage safety cannot be overstated. But as product recalls and foodborne illnesses demonstrate, there are still challenges in ensuring that everything we consume is indeed safe and accurately advertised. Developments in numerous fields of science are helping to resolve the challenges around food safety, as well as improved testing methods and instrumentation. 

Emerging techniques for foodborne outbreak prevention

One technology that is emerging as a key tool for food safety is whole genome sequencing (WGS), which Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy commissioner for Food Policy and Response defines as “the number one thing that has advanced food safety in the twenty-first century.” WGS has proven to be invaluable in foodborne illness outbreak response. The primary benefit of using WGS in foodborne outbreak response is that the technique provides more detailed information than other techniques. To learn more about the advantages of WGS and its future development in food outbreak response and prevention, read this article, from contributing writer Andrea Tolu.

Identifying food fraud

As contributing writer Karl Ritter explains, “food fraud is one of the most urgent and active areas of interest in the food industry.” There are a variety of ways to commit food fraud, including intentionally mislabeling items and the adulteration of ingredients. It is imperative that scientists remain on the forefront of new approaches and technologies that can better identify instances of food fraud, as those who are committing the fraud continue to find new ways avoid detection. 

As Ritter discusses in his article, scientists are now using two core strategies to detect food adulteration—targeted and non-targeted analysis. Learn more about how this two-pronged approach works here.

Food quality testing

The quality of the food and beverage products we consume is also a major component of the food safety industry. A variety of analytical testing methods are used to ensure that the foods and drinks we consume are indeed safe, and accurately represent the ingredients listed. The filtration steps performed during these analytical tests are a crucial yet often overlooked component of the food safety process. In this Q&A, managing editor Laure Everett speaks with Duncan White, of the life sciences company Cytiva, about the important role that filtration plays within food testing. 

The food safety and testing industry is booming with new innovations. These advances and developments help to ensure that everything on our dining tables—from the orange juice we drink in the morning to the vegetables on our dinner plates—are safe, authentic, and of good quality.

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