Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Food production and food safety

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 19 June 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1689

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. T A B Sanders, professor of nutrition and dietetics (
  1. Nutrition, Food and Health Research Centre, King's College London, London SE1 8WA

    Editorials by Brundtland and Pershagen

    Most food is now produced by large farms, processed industrially, and sold in supermarkets and multinational food outlets. Modern food production has reduced the cost and increased the variety of food available, but this centralisation of the food supply presents an opportunity for foodborne pathogens and toxins to infect and poison large numbers of consumers.1 Furthermore, the globalisation of food trade means that food can become contaminated in one country and cause outbreaks of foodborne illness in another.24 Modern food production is so complex that a systematic approach is needed to identify the hazards at each point in the food chain.

    Summary points

    • The centralisation and globalisation of foods increase the likelihood of pandemics of foodborne disease

    • People in developing countries are at greater risk from naturally occurring toxicants, foodborne disease, and contaminants in the food chain

    • The hazard critical control point concept is essential for assessing and managing risk

    • Special consideration is needed with regard to fish and shellfish

    • Concerted action needs to be taken to prohibit the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animal production

    • Internationally agreed food standards are essential to facilitate trade in food between areas with food surplus and those with food deficit


    I made an electronic search of the Medline database between January 1990 and May 1999, using the search terms food poisoning and epidemiology, food additives and adverse effects, pesticides and poisoning, and food contamination. Statistical information on the incidence of food poisoning and adverse reactions was obtained from the Public Health Laboratory Services; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; and the UK Department of Health. Data on food surveillance was obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food. Information on risk assessment was derived from working papers of the WHO/FAO Codex Alimentarius …

    View Full Text

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription