Climate change effects such as higher average temperatures and more rain or drought can increase the presence of certain pathogens, according to a report from the National Food Administration.
The report also looks at the dangers that may be relevant in different types of food as a result of climate change, with a focus on Swedish conditions, and discusses how they could be controlled. This section covers dairy products, meat, seafood, eggs, cereals and fruit, berries and vegetables.
A risk profile was developed to increase knowledge about how climate change may affect microbiological food safety in the future. The focus was on identifying existing and emerging hazards that can be worrying and affect the safety of food and water consumed in Sweden.
The report also suggests ways to meet the new challenges by changing normal conditions and an increased frequency of extreme events.
Although there are knowledge gaps, the analysis shows that the prevalence of most microbiological hazards would probably increase as a result of climate change. Conclusions about the change of specific hazards as well as the extent and speed of the impact are uncertain and depend on the accuracy of the climate scenario and what mitigation measures are taken.
In Sweden, the climate will be warmer, especially in winter. Precipitation will generally increase, mostly in winter and spring, especially in the northern parts of the country. In the southeast, increased drought and water shortages are forecast. Climate change is also expected to lead to more frequent extreme weather events such as floods and heat waves.
A change in normal conditions can increase the presence of certain bacteria, viruses, parasites and mold toxins that can cause diseases through food and drinking water. Extreme weather events can lead to power outages, infrastructure disruptions and food pollution.
Impacts on the environment and society that can affect food safety include changing conditions for plant cultivation, animal production, infrastructure, energy supply and water supply, according to the report.
Data are based on scientific literature and reports from domestic and international bodies, including the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
– The report from the National Food Administration shows what science today says about how climate change can affect food production in Sweden and the food we import. What we have come to also provides a basis for continued work on how we can address the new challenges, says Jonas Toljander, risk assessor.
Probably increased dangers
Bacteria that are likely to increase in the environment, water, animals, plants and / or food raw materials due to a changing climate, and for which the level of evidence is judged to be high, are Bacillus anthracis, Francisella tularensis, Salmonella, Shigella and Vibrio. There is also some evidence that Campylobacter, Listeria and Shigatoxin-producing E. coli (STEC) may be more common.
All food-borne viruses have the potential to increase in incidence due to climate change. However, the level of evidence is medium for norovirus and low for hepatitis A and E viruses.
Most parasites are considered to be able to grow more but the level of evidence is mostly low. For Cryptosporidium, Giardia intestinalis and Toxoplasma gondii it is medium.
Among the mycotoxins, it is estimated that all Fusarium toxins covered (DON, T2 / HT2, zearalenone and fumonisins) will increase, of which the level of evidence is highest for deoxynivalenol (DON) and fumonisins. Aflatoxins are also expected to become more common.
Microbiological hazards arising from climate change are likely to vary for different food groups and stages in the supply chain.
The National Food Administration has previously published documents concerning climate change, including a handbook to help drinking water producers adapt their supply to changing climate conditions in 2019 and a plan for the food sector in a changing climate in 2018.
– It is important to start adapting the food chain based on a changed climate so that we can maintain the high degree of food safety that we have today, says Annica Sohlström, Director General of the National Food Administration.
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