Global warming, from extreme weather to food contamination

pxfuel.com

Hi, every one

Everything in the news since the beginning of this year, which is also the beginning of a new decade, keeps reminding me how important the FoodSmartphone project is. Yeah, you are right, you might not see a clear link here. However, I am one of the early-stage researchers of the project who spent almost 3 years working 24/7 to develop a novel smartphone-based food analyzer for onsite food safety testing, can see the connection vividly and in this blog, I will try to explain it. Well, to start, just have a look at the news and then you see my first point. The year 2020 started with the unprecedented Australia wildfire, Europe, Russia, and the US just had their warmest winter on record, and it is all linked to the global warming, more rain, and higher temperatures.

Now, how the higher temperature, more rain, and extreme weather event would affect food safety? In general, these conditions will increase toxic contamination incidents due to an increase in bacteria, viruses, parasites, harmful algae, fungi growth, and persistence. Alongside, the increase in pest will lead to the increasing use of pesticides and veterinary medicines in crops and animals. There is also a positive effect which would be an increase in food production, however, based on the WHO report August 2018 the overall impact would be negative, considering the food safety challenge and the increased risk for public health. Now, I guess, the role of our state of art Smartphone-based food analyzer is getting a bit clear. But let’s discuss it a bit more.

Unbenannt
Beautiful molds under the microscope produce deadly and dangerous mycotoxins.

I am particularly interested in mycotoxins contamination since I am working on smartphone-based aflatoxins screening tests.  In this case, there is a clear link too. Mycotoxins are produced by molds and fungi which grows more in a hot and humid climate. The contamination can increase more after harvest in hot and humid conditions. The higher level of mycotoxin contamination could cause acute poisoning and the lower levels could cause severe diseases including cancer.  Several food safety events have been already happened due to mycotoxins intoxication in African countries, leading to death and illness. With the rising temperature, it could happen in Europe too. If not, obviously, there is a growing concern for mycotoxin contamination in imported food from other parts of the world.

The traditional food safety testing although being the gold standard won’t suffice to deal with this challenge. Here is where our smartphone-based analyzers come very handy.  With our state of art devices, it would be possible to run fast screening tests on-site, on the farm or at a border checkpoint. Also, it would be possible to run many more tests, since they are much cheaper than the expensive instrumental analysis and there would be no need to transport the samples to an equipped laboratory. The good news is, there has been a lot done and we are going to have our smartphone-based analyzer’s first prototypes ready soon. It is a very rewarding feeling for me, knowing what we are doing as FoodSmartphone ESRs is addressing an increasingly important challenge in a very practical way. If you want to hear more and more about smartphone-based food analyzers, then continue reading our blogs.

Till my next blog,

Chao,

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