Can we still safely eat fruit and vegetables in the future, in a changing climate, or will that come under pressure, the researchers from Ghent and Wageningen wondered. They combined the latest insights and scientific findings surrounding the impact of climate change on food safety. They put together their overview as part of the Veg-i-Trade project, funded by the European Union.
Incidentally, these are the first studies into this link. The researchers think there is every reason to expand research into this. More so-called scenario analyses, which have been common in climate research in general, should also be adopted in food safety research. In the Veg-i-Trade study, a scenario analyses was included, which had hardly been done before.
Field studies and statistical analyses within the Veg-i-Trade project show there is indeed often a link between contamination of fruit and vegetables and climate variables, such as temperature and precipitation. An initial study into toxic substances from fungi, for instance, shows that for Poland, an increased risk of tomato contamination is to be expected at the end of the 21st century. In Spain, on the other hand, it will become too hot for those fungi, which could cause the risk of contamination to be smaller there. Another study shows that in a flooded lettuce field – the chance of floods increases due to climate change – increased concentrations of harmful bacteria are found. These concentrations then decrease quickly due to UV light.
One of the conclusions from a study of possibilities for adaptation to climate change, is that adaptations to future climate change will have to be very different for different countries, sectors and companies. The emphasis should be on increasing the capacity for adaptation, this study concludes.