These unsung champions of the food industry, food technologists work tirelessly to defend Australians from the threat of fatal foodborne illnesses and contamination.
Despite Australia’s stringent laws and regulations to safeguard the public’s health, foodborne illnesses are a prevalent health issue in Australia, with an estimated 4.1 million cases reported annually, affecting roughly 16% of the population.
Caused by consuming contaminated food, symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and in severe cases, death. In fact, each year, there are an estimated 80 deaths as a result of foodborne illnesses.
Emma White, Food Technologist and Founder of The Why Meat Co. said that these numbers can be dramatically decreased with proper application of food science in product and quality assurance.
“Proper application of food science is essential in keeping products safe and consumers protected from food contamination. Food technologists play a vital role in keeping Australians safe, we’re often the only barrier standing in the way of widespread contamination and foodborne illnesses.
“One of the key contributions of food science is the development of robust food safety systems, which identifies critical control points in the production process, allows us to implement preventative measures and ensures the highest standards of food safety,” White said.
The impact of foodborne illnesses extends beyond discomfort and inconvenience, presenting substantial economic implications. Recent research reveals these illnesses cost Australia approximately AUD 2.44 billion each year.
Food technologists are at the forefront in the continuous effort to enhance food safety across the industry, retail and consumer sectors, aiming to bolster public healthcare. However, like the rest of the globe, Australia still grapples with food safety challenges. For instance, in Queensland, home-based food businesses presently fall outside the purview of the state’s food safety licensing laws – a situation that may soon change.
“A significant amount of precision, regulation and assessment goes into making the food we eat safe. Home-based food businesses increase the likelihood of improper hygiene practices, inadequate storage conditions, and a higher potential for foodborne illnesses.”
Ahead of World Food Safety Day (7 June), Australians are encouraged to consider the foods in their shopping basket and rethink the impact food technologists have on our safety.
“Food science isn’t a cryptic language, decipherable only by white-coated scientists. It’s a captivating field that impacts everyone. World Food Safety Day presents an excellent opportunity for us all to embrace our inner food scientists,” Emma said.