Food pathogenic and spoilage organisms – small in size, huge in impact. Considerable efforts have gone into improving production technologies, distribution, hygiene standards and consumer education in recent decades. Despite this, food poisoning outbreaks are still on the rise in most countries.
In Europe and the United States, consumers have an almost 1 in 10 chance of suffering acute gastroenteritis each year. In addition to the human costs, annual economic losses attributable to food-borne diseases are estimated at over $6 billion in the USA and £745 million in the UK alone.
It has also been estimated that about 25% of the world’s food supply is lost as a result of microbial spoilage. In the United States, this adds up to an economic loss of $1 billion per annum (www.cdc.gov/scientific.htm). Food losses begin on the farm and continue throughout post-harvest storage, distribution, processing, wholesaling, retailing and, finally, household and catering use.
According to the International Conference on Nutrition, hundreds of millions of people suffer from diseases caused by contaminated food and drinking water. It has been declared that “access to nutritionally adequate and safe food is a right of each individual”
[WHO, 1996.International Conference on Nutrition: a challenge to the food safety community.Document WHO/FNU/FOS/96.4].