Food safety is a holistic measure of people’s ability to obtain and assess the safety of food. According to the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, food safety is defined as a system that assures food security in the context of a country’s food supply. The committee defines food safety as an integrated approach to improving the quality of the production and distribution of food, with an emphasis on effective and efficient processing, preparation, packaging, safety testing and retailing of food. According to the committee, food safety is a complex process, which requires both scientific and technocratic innovation. Technological advances in food processing and preparation have led to improvements in nutritional quality and safety. These advancements have increased the consumer’s confidence in food processing and delivery.
A recent report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Food Safety and Quality outlines 10 new global food processing and quality standards. These standards were introduced in response to the 2007 global food catastrophe. The report defined these standards as being critical for the protection of human health and the environment. They are also required by developed countries to ensure the safety of food imports and exports. Many developing countries, however, have been slower to ratify these regulations, despite the importance they provide for their development as nations.
Technological improvements in food processing have made it possible to increase the yield from each plant, with an increasing number of crops yielding higher quantities of food per area. This has led to a reduction in the labour employed in food processing. Improvements in food processing have also led to more products available per area and improved quality. Improved quality is important for increasing the value of food commodities, which in turn increases
consumers’ satisfaction with the product. Consumers demand foods that are safe to eat, packaged in suitable containers and which meet quality and safety requirements.
With regard to animals, the definition of acceptable food in certain parts of the world may be different from another. For instance, in Europe certain animal fats and by-products are banned because they are known to promote obesity. On the other hand, the United States Food and Drug Administration allow growth hormones to be used in growing animals, provided they are not used during pregnancy. Both Europe and the United States to ban the use of antibiotics in food processing, arguing that antibiotics often kill bacteria, and that by-products such as excreta from animals create toxins that contribute to the contamination of water supplies.
In Canada, the Food Hygiene Act regulates the quality of food, including the identification and marking of symbols, colours and the indication of mandatory information concerning contaminants, hazards and handling procedures. It also requires mandatory information regarding the control of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and animal origins and sets out the requirements for manufacturing, packaging and labelling. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency monitors food production and ensures that these guidelines and standards are followed. The European Union and the United States require companies to indicate on their packaging whether ingredients come from areas designated as having inadequate food safety.
Globally, guidelines and standards have been developed to reduce the risk of food borne illness and to maintain the quality and safety of the food supply. The Food Safety Improvement Program has been set up by the World Health Organization and the US Food and Drug Administration to improve the quality of food produced, packaged and eaten. These international programs focus on the identification of all sources of food-borne illness and providing information on how the various safety systems work in practice.