Food security in light of urbanisation and climate change is one of the biggest challenges that countries face today. In particular, fresh produce value chains are extremely vulnerable to pests, diseases and poor management practices. The EU-funded VEG-I-TRADE project aimed to identify how climate change and globalisation affect food safety issues, such as microbial and chemical hazards. The project also sought to develop response mechanisms to eliminate or minimise the risks. To achieve their goals, researchers integrated different tools such as field studies, modelling and risk assessments. A full analysis of trade and production volumes in the EU and abroad was completed. This analysis included measuring the current level of implementation of best practices and management systems aimed at the assurance of fresh produce safety. The results allowed for identification and selection of case studies in several countries. Proper pre- and post-harvest practices, irrigation for water scarcity and adequate water treatment technologies were also identified. In addition, the team developed microbial growth models and packaging conditions to optimise the transport and storage of fresh-cut produce. VEG-I-TRADE also advanced three self-assessment tools to help businesses better understand their food safety management chain and determine any potential vulnerability to climate change. Another achievement was the creation of a microbial sampling and analysis tool. By using this at various stages in the crop cycle, it becomes possible to build a microbial profile of a given production process. VEG-I-TRADE should aid in the establishment of preventive measures and checks to ensure that global changes do not negatively affect fresh produce. As such, its outcomes are ultimately important for human health.
Fresh produce, food security, climate change, food safety