A recent European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report identifies a list of challenges driven by climate change that may affect food safety (risks associated with the food chain) in Europe.
These challenges include food-borne diseases; toxic blooms in water, both algae and bacteria; harmful parasites, fungi, viruses, vectors and invasive species; the (re)emergence of new hazards and increased susceptibility to known hazards; and changing nutrient levels in food and feed.
Climate change may also affect susceptibility to disease/infestation; increase toxicity of and exposure to toxic compounds; increase use of pesticide and fertilisers; reduce nutrient availability and quality of soil; increase use of veterinary drugs (potentially contributing to antibiotic resistance) and additives; lead to sewer overflow into rivers and coastal environment due to heavier and more frequent rainfalls and flooding; and reduce food hygiene in primary production and transport.
However, the authors acknowledge that although this list is already worryingly long, it is inevitably incomplete given the complex nature of the challenge, and undoubtedly, unanticipated surprises await us in the future.
The report highlights how extreme weather and climate events (heat waves, drought, heavy rainfall and flooding) will drive emerging issues for food safety.
Other drivers of food safety, such as social behaviour, societal changes, global trade patterns or increasing pollution, novel food/feed sources, consumption patterns, farming practices and technologies, may also be impacted by climate change.
The publication reports on the outcomes of EFSA’s “CLimate change as a driver of Emerging risks for Food Safety” (CLEFSA) project, which ran from 2018 to 2020.
The CLEFSA project aimed to develop methods and tools to identify and define emerging risks related to climate change by:
- Assessing multiple emerging risks using climate change scenarios;
- Horizon scanning and crowdsourcing;
- Bringing together experts from international EU and UN agencies in a knowledge network;
- Designing a “multi-criteria decision analysis” tool to define risks in food, feed safety, plant, animal health and nutritional quality;
- Developing methodologies and indicators to analyse and visualise the information and to address uncertainty in a data-poor environment.
JRC scientists Andrea Toreti and Jessika Giraldi were part of the 14-strong interdisciplinary CLEFSA network of experts who helped identify emerging issues and design the multi-criteria decision analysis tool.
Other members of the network came from international, EU and UN institutions and coordinators of large EU projects involved with climate change, including the WHO, UNESCO, the EEA, the ECDC, the FAO, the WMO and UNEP.
Jessika provided expert guidance on the use of two JRC data intelligence tools to help detect a broad range of issues potentially affected by climate change: the European Media Monitor’s Medical Information System (EMM/MEDISYS) and the Tools for Innovation Monitoring (TIM).
MEDISYS was used to automatically collect online news articles that address climate change and food safety issues, while TIM Technology was used to explore scientific publications on that topic and to search for the emergence of relevant concepts in the scientific literature.
Andrea helped produce and analyse specific climate change projections relevant for food safety and emerging risks using Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) climate data and EURO-Cordex simulations for 1981-2019 (reference period) and 2021-2050 (near future period).
These scenarios were used to characterise and statistically analyse over 100 emerging issues for food and feed safety, plant and animal health and nutritional quality against an established set of criteria.
As climate change impacts the risks to human, plant, animal health and to the environment, it needs to be accounted for in holistic risk assessment approaches that deal with multiple stressors.
The wide variety of issues identified and characterised in this report highlights the need for policymakers and other relevant players in the food system to consider adjusting surveillance and monitoring to prepare for emerging risks caused by climate change.
Virtual Info Session – 8 October 2020
Given the complexity and interdisciplinarity of the subject, EFSA are organising a virtual information session on 8 October 2020.
This session, which is open to all interested stakeholders, aims to:
- Disseminate the CLEFSA report to a wider audience;
- Identify opportunities for promoting synergies across related activities.
Registration is required – see the EFSA website for details.
- Climate change as a driver of emerging risks for food and feed safety, plant, animal health and nutritional quality
- CLimate change and Emerging risks for Food SAfety (CLEFSA) project
- Europe Media Monitor (EMM)
- Tools for Innovation Monitoring (TIM)
- Medical Information System (MEDISYS)
- Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S)
- Save the date - Info session on “Climate change as a driver of emerging risks for food and feed safety, plant, animal health and nutritional quality”
- 15 Juli 2020