Genomics and Food Safety

The Future role of Genomics within Food Safety

There is a growing demand for food that is both fresh tasting and quick and easy to prepare; something that is demanded by today’s fast-paced lifestyles. Unfortunately, this type of food carries with it the potential for food poisoning if certain safety procedures are not followed.   Measures must be put in place to ensure that any potentially dangerous bacteria present in food are easily and quickly identified, and then eliminated. Currently, the process of identifying such bacteria is relatively slow and cumbersome, which means that in the event of a food poisoning outbreak it can take some time to identify its source. Thankfully, there is a new technology available to address this particular problem

Genomics will allow scientists to quickly identify the microorganisms present in food products, and observe how these microorganisms respond to the preservation methods applied. Microbial genomics involves comparing the raw product against chips that contain information of thousands of genes belonging to the microorganisms that cause food spoilage. Genomics will in future make it so much easier to prevent food poisoning and quickly identify treatment measures, without using as much energy as is currently needed.

Understanding the genetic make-up of the microorganisms that may be present in food will also help scientists discover how they can use these microorganisms to the advantage of the consumer. In fact, genomics has been identified as one of the top strategic priorities as far as combating food safety issues is concerned; and it is expected that genomic technology will be highly transformational as far as public health microbiology is concerned. Foodborne disease tracking will become much easier once genomics are applied.

Many of the laboratory methods used to test and detect foodborne illnesses are effective, but take too much time and require so many resources, so that by the time the cause is detected, and the treatment offered, it is usually too late. The single fast method offered by whole genome sequencing will simplify this process, and help curtail outbreaks before they become full blown.

What’s more, genomic technology will not only be used in food preservation. Rather, application will extend to all processes where living microorganisms are present. Metabolic engineering, development of risk assessment procedures and even tailoring of novel preservation methods will be facilitated by genomic technology. It will also be possible to use genomics to trace the path travelled by food from the farm to the table, which will ensure there is greater accountability in food supply chain  logistics.