Climate Change and Food Safety: The Interplay of Microbiological Hazards and Environmental Shifts

25th Jun 2024

Climate Change and Food Safety: The Interplay of Microbiological Hazards and Environmental Shifts

From farm to fork, the intricate interplay between climate change and food safety becomes increasingly obvious. The presence of microbiological hazards in food production is exacerbated, posing significant challenges across various stages of the food supply chain. Pathogenic microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites, pose risks to food safety. Climate-related events such as heavy rainfall, flooding, and droughts can all influence the spread of foodborne diseases, impacting both plant-based commodities and animal products. Heavy rainfall can lead to contamination through runoffs, affecting water used in crop irrigation, while droughts may result in contaminated irrigation water.

Foodborne Diseases in Poultry, Dairy, and Seafood

In recent years, foodborne diseases associated with poultry, dairy, and seafood have garnered increased attention due to their significant impact on public health and food safety. Here's a deeper dive into each category:


Poultry products, including chicken and turkey, have been linked to outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, primarily caused by pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. These bacteria can contaminate poultry during various stages of production, from farms to processing facilities. Rising temperatures, especially in poultry production environments, can create favorable conditions for the proliferation of these pathogens, increasing the risk of contamination.

Salmonella is a particularly persistent zoonotic pathogen in poultry and is a leading cause of acute gastroenteritis worldwide. Temperature plays a significant role in Salmonella infections, with research indicating that salmonellosis increases with higher temperatures. Campylobacter, another common pathogen associated with poultry, is also influenced by temperature changes. Warmer temperatures can facilitate the growth of Campylobacter in broiler flocks, increasing the likelihood of contamination.


Dairy products, including milk, cheese, and yogurt, can also be sources of foodborne illnesses if not handled and processed properly. Pathogens such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter can contaminate dairy products during production, processing, or distribution.

Listeria monocytogenes is a concern in dairy products due to its ability to survive and even grow under refrigeration temperatures. This bacterium can cause severe illness, especially in vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems. Changes in temperature and storage conditions can impact the growth and survival of pathogens in dairy products, emphasizing the importance of proper handling and refrigeration.


Seafood, including fish and shellfish, presents unique challenges for food safety due to the complexity of marine ecosystems and the potential for contamination at various stages of harvesting, processing, and distribution. Bacteria, viruses, and parasites, such as Vibrio spp., norovirus, and parasitic worms, can pose risks to consumers if seafood is not handled or cooked properly.

Vibrio spp., including Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus, are commonly associated with seafood-related illnesses, particularly in warmer climates. Changes in ocean temperatures can influence the prevalence and distribution of Vibrio bacteria, potentially leading to more frequent outbreaks. Additionally, norovirus, a common cause of viral gastroenteritis, can contaminate seafood through fecal contamination in water sources, highlighting the importance of monitoring and sanitation measures in seafood production.

Understanding the Nexus of Climate Change and Food Safety

Climate change disrupts traditional patterns of weather and environmental conditions, creating a ripple effect across the food supply chain. Increased temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and extreme weather events all contribute to the proliferation of foodborne pathogens, contamination risks, and compromised food safety standards.

The Ozone Conundrum

Ozone, a molecule of three oxygen atoms, plays a dual role in food safety and climate change. While ozone in the stratosphere serves as a shield against harmful ultraviolet radiation, ground-level ozone generated through human activities can have detrimental effects on both human health and agricultural productivity.

Integrating ozone-based technologies into food production and processing facilities offers a sustainable approach to safeguarding food safety amidst environmental challenges.

Ozone Applications in Food Safety

Ozone Water Treatment Systems

Ozone water treatment systems utilize ozone gas dissolved in water to sanitize surfaces, equipment, and food products. When ozone is dissolved in water, it forms aqueous ozone, a highly reactive molecule that can effectively kill bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens on contact. Aqueous ozone acts by penetrating the cell walls of microorganisms, disrupting their cellular structures, and ultimately leading to microbial inactivation.

In food processing facilities, ozone water treatment systems are commonly used to sanitize food contact surfaces, such as processing equipment, conveyor belts, and containers. By incorporating ozone into the water used for cleaning and sanitizing, food manufacturers can achieve high levels of microbial reduction without the need for harsh chemicals. Additionally, ozone water treatment systems offer rapid disinfection times and leave no chemical residues, making them ideal for use in food processing environments where cleanliness and safety are paramount.

Ozone Gas Treatments

Ozone gas treatments involve the direct application of ozone gas to disinfect food products and processing environments. Ozone gas possesses strong oxidative properties, capable of penetrating porous surfaces and killing microorganisms present on food surfaces and in the surrounding air. Ozone gas treatments can be applied in various stages of food production, including post-harvest processing, storage, and packaging.

In post-harvest applications, ozone gas treatments can help reduce microbial contamination on fruits, vegetables, and grains, extending their shelf life and reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses. Ozone gas can also be used to disinfect processing environments, such as food storage facilities, cold storage rooms, and packaging areas, helping to maintain sanitary conditions and prevent cross-contamination.

Advantages of Ozone Applications

Ozone offers several advantages as a disinfection agent for food safety applications. Firstly, ozone is a potent antimicrobial agent capable of effectively killing a wide range of pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Secondly, ozone treatments provide a traditional method of disinfection, reducing the reliance on traditional chemical sanitizers and minimizing the risk of chemical residues in food products. Additionally, ozone treatments offer rapid disinfection times, allowing for efficient and effective sanitation of food processing environments.

In conclusion, ozone's powerful oxidizing properties make it an invaluable tool for reducing microbial contamination and ensuring food safety in various food production and processing environments. Ozone applications, such as ozone water treatment systems and ozone gas treatments, provide traditional methods for disinfecting food and food processing environments, offering numerous benefits for enhancing food safety and protecting public health.