Food Quality Safety and Environmental Impacts

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Food quality and safety in agricultural products is another important issue irrespective of the production system - organic or conventional. Food quality is the suitability of the particular foodstuff for its intended purpose and characterized by quantitative and qualitative characteristics that may differ between markets, e.g. fresh and processed, consumers and regions and influence the prices received by producers and paid by the customers. One aspect of food quality that is becoming more important is the way that the food has been produced in relation to techniques and inputs used, environmental impacts, energy demands and animal welfare standards. In this respect, consumers have choices, e.g. between food produced by conventional, low-input or organic production systems. Food safety on the other hand is defined as the assurance that food will not cause harm to the consumer when it is prepared and/or consumed according to its intended use (Brandt 2007). It is regulated by national and international legislations. There are ample examples that the methods used for food production do make a difference to food composition or other aspects of its quality, and that these differences are large enough to make a real difference for the consumer in terms of health. Food production methods probably affect food quality to the extent that they have a significant impact on health. There is now a good basis for designing studies that can elucidate which production factors are important in this regard, and that the next step is to define and test these factors (Brandt 2007). Hazards traditionally considered serious food safety issues responsible for food poisonings and with no indication of benefits are pathogens such as prions (BSE), allergens, mycotoxins, dioxins, GMOs, pesticide residues, growth hormones, food additives: colourants, preservatives, flavours, process aids, nitrite added to processed meat, salt, added sugar and saturated fat (Brandt 2008). The role of organic agriculture whether in farming, processing, distribution or consumption is to sustain and enhance the process of food safety and health at all stages and levels of the agroecosystem.

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