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Fields & Applications Food, Beverage & Agriculture, Mass Spectrometry, Business

Citizen Science and Food Safety

Food safety was once considered a given, but the widely reported scandals of recent years have refocused the public’s attention and brought to life the reality that food adulteration is an ever-present risk. Accordingly, food analysis acts as a front line of defense against such dangers. But current approaches are only partly effective.

In the September 2019 issue of The Analytical Scientist, Chris Elliott, Hans-Gerd Janssen and I discussed these issues in light of the hot topics to be discussed at RAFA 2019. The consensus: while current approaches offer a high level of protection against food fraud, these services are costly and inefficient. Though we do a good job of detecting non-compliance in about 1 percent of all samples collected, is that a good enough hit rate? If 99 percent of samples are compliant, is the administrative and logistical effort undertaken to assess them wisely spent?

Consider another angle: reducing food spoilage is of the utmost importance across the globe. But how do consumers know if food is good to eat or a danger to health with vague statements on the package such as “best before....” or “may contain....”? The human nose is not always good enough...

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About the Author

Michel Nielen

Michel Nielen is Principal Scientist of Wageningen Food Safety Research (WFSR) and professor of Analytical Chemistry at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. He is coordinator of the H2020 MSCA ITN project FoodSmartphone and Co-Chair of the Recent Advances in Food Analysis (RAFA) symposium series.

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