Is Climate Change Making Our Food More Dangerous?

by , 02/28/11
filed under: Green Products, Innovation

Advancement of Science in Washington, climate change, dangerous food, salmonella, food poisoning, healthcare bill, Department of Agriculture

It seems as if freak weather, melting ice caps and rising water levels are not the only things we should be concerned about when it comes to climate change. According to four scientists speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, global warming will lead to “increased levels of contamination of food, from chemicals and pesticides to crop pests and fungal pathogens, as well as faster spreading of diseases such as cholera and shellfish poisoning.”

Advancement of Science in Washington, climate change, dangerous food, salmonella, food poisoning, healthcare bill, Department of Agriculture, mike chino

Photo by Mike Chino for Inhabitat

The findings show that not only will climate change lead to food shortages and increase food prices, but force the population to make changes in their diets as some foods become less available or more dangerous – potentially giving way to civil unrest. Speaking at the summit, Sandra Hoffman of the Department of Agriculture said that the links between climate change and food safety are only now just being understood and the science is not clear.

A prime example of their argument was that of salmonella. Currently, there are 38.4 million cases of food poisoning in the U.S. every year. Salmonella is the leading cause of food related death. Scientists now believe that as the ambient temperature in an area rises above six degrees Celsius — or 43 degrees Fahrenheit —  the chance of food-borne salmonella poisoning increases by a considerable 12 percent.

According to Ewen C. Todd, of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, climate change has already been responsible for food poisoning cases. He highlighted an incident in 2006 when lettuce grown in Spain and shipped to Finland caused 56 cases of salmonella poisoning. The cause was traced to farmers using untreated water for irrigation, but they had been forced to do so as a drought likely related to climate change that had restricted their access to clean water.

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1 Comment

  1. welz February 28, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    I’m not sure if global warming will make food more dangerous from food borne illness. As I read the article global warming will make agriculture more difficult from plant pathogens attacking weak plants. I don’t see the connection with post harvest food borne illness. Poor farming and post harvest processing have always been causes for food borne illness.

    I do however see a connection with food shortages – rising prices – and the urge to cut corners at farms and food processing facilities to capitalize on profits. That’s going on right now in China.

    Solution? Grow your own food and support local farmers and farmers markets. When you make the connection to who grows your food and you know their name and face, your grower is less likely to screw up. They’ll be seeing you every week at the farmers market.

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