The global fresh produce supply chain must take into account climate change in order to ensure food safety, warn EU-funded researchers. This was the key recommendation of the EU-funded VEG-I-TRADE project, which assessed the safety of fresh produce in a rapidly evolving context of climate change and expanding international trade.
VEG-I-TRADE studies revealed that the microbial ecology of plants is influenced by a web of complex interactions between climate, environment, biological, technical, and cultural factors. A shift in one of the factors can lead to changes to the whole web, potentially impacting the safety of fresh produce.
A major outcome of the project has been a series of recommendations and findings that national competent authorities, industry associations and private companies can use to reinforce their own guidelines, or to carry out adaptation scenarios with the aim of taking the safety of fresh produce to the next level.
The project partners used field samples and a self-assessment tool to track the status of best practices and management systems implemented at primary production, processing or trade level.
The results of the project’s supplier survey included the need to pursue water recycling strategies, which should be carried out without compromising food safety. Regulatory standards and certification were seen as both a catalyst for best practice and a non-tariff barrier to trade, with the need for science-based assessment highlighted.
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