The Tasty Bits Blog

Nov 2, 2012

Thoughts on food safety

Food and Health  ·  

With the recent spike of food recalls in North America in the past few months, a number of writers and columnists have been using two terms interchangeably; those being “food safety” and “food security”. They are very different and need to be clarified.

Generally speaking, “Food Safety” is a process where basic regulatory steps are in place so that consumers can have confidence that when they purchase food products, that those products will be safe to consume without additional risks. It involves a number of factors involved in the growth, harvesting, processing, storage and sale of food, such as inspections, reporting, regulations and testing. The process offers no guarantees about taste, price or availability, only that it should generally be safe to consume. This is a simplified definition, but it you get the point. 

Consumers have very high expectations of the food supply chain, and despite the recent increase in both recalls and reports of food borne illnesses, the reality is that in North America, our food supply is very safe, widely available and affordable.

“Food Security” is different; it’s about availability and distribution. At its most basic, can the population access safe foodstuffs to sustain a basic level of health? In reality, despite the sad reports of “food deserts” in some (usually large American) cities, “food security” impacts a tiny percentage of the North American population.

This is in stark contrast to large populations in Asia and Africa where civil war, famine, climate change, missing infrastructure, governmental corruption, plus other factors mean billions struggle everyday to find enough calories to stave off malnutrition. Food safety would be a luxury.

Things aren’t perfect here, but to say we have any large scale “food security” issues is not only grossly inaccurate, but greatly diminishes the reality that billions around the world face; the worry every day about whether they will be able to feed themselves and their families.

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