Every year at least 1/3 of the population of ANY nation experiences food-borne disease…
  • food (and the water used for its production, processing and preparation) is a likely vector of many microbiological, chemical and physical hazards;

  • food-borne disease or illness caused by these hazards pose major and growing public health and economic problems in both developed and developing countries. Recent examples include the emergence of BSE in Europe as a disease transmittable through food, and the dioxin contamination of animal feed in 1999 (from a single source) that was identified on every continent within weeks;

  • food and waterborne diarrhoeal diseases are estimated to kill more than 2 million people a year (2.1 million in 2000), most of whom are children, in developing countries - comparable to the number of deaths attributable to malaria every year.
Examples of food-borne hazards
type hazard e.g.
biological hazards zoonotic agents that may enter the food chain Brucella, Salmonella sp, prions
pathogens predominantly food-borne Listeria monocytogenes, Trichinella, Toxoplasma, Campylobacter jejuni, Yersinia enterocolitica
established pathogens emerging in new vehicles or new situations Salmonella enteritidis in eggs, hepatitis A viruses in vegetables, Norwalk/Norwalk-like viruses in seafoods
pathogens newly associated with food-borne transmission E. coli O157:H7, Vibrio vulnificus
anti-microbial resistant pathogens Salmonella typhimurium DT 104
chemical hazards naturally occurring toxicants marine biotoxins, mycotoxins
environmental or industrial contaminants mercury, lead, PCBs, dioxin, radionucleides
residues of agricultural chemicals pesticides, veterinary drugs and surface sanitisers
toxic substances migrant from packaging or other materials in contact with food  
new issues in toxicology allergenicity, endocrine disruption from pesticide residues
physical hazards foreign matter pieces of glass or wood
inedible parts of the food pieces of bone, fruit stones

Source: adapted from FAO, “Safe Food and Nutritious Diet for the Consumer”, Box 1, p.4.

Food safety must be considered within a global context that is dynamic and evolving as part of the globalisation process…
  • globalisation is generally characterised by increased international trade, more integrated markets, more rapid adoption of new technologies, increased market concentration and information transfer. All of these aspects have important implications, both positive and negative, for food safety and the development of a food chain approach to food safety strategy;

  • this approach encompasses the whole food chain from primary production to final consumption. Stakeholders include farmers, fishermen, slaughterhouse operators, food processors, transport operators, distributors (wholesale and retail) and consumers, as well as governments obliged to protect public health; (1)

  • fresh produce and processed products are increasingly marketed globally, with greater concentration of market power in a few dominant food multinationals. These companies generally have the financial and technological capacity to ensure that their fresh produce and food products are safe and that any sources of food contamination may be more easily traced;

  • however, given the more integrated and global nature of these firms, once unsafe and/or contaminated food enters the food chain, it is very likely to be more rapidly distributed and thus expose a greater number of people to increased risk.

(1) The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations defines the food chain approach as recognition that the responsibility for the supply of food that is safe, healthy and nutritious is shared along the entire food chain - by all involved with the production, processing, trade and consumption of food.