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A FOUR DECADE PERSPECTIVE ON FOOD SAFETY: WHAT HAVE I LEARNED?. Brent Skura Faculty of Land and Food Systems The University of British Columbia. THE FOOD SYSTEM. Marked increase in complexity Increased prevalence of soft preservation technologies Modified atmosphere packaging

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A four decade perspective on food safety what have i learned


Brent Skura

Faculty of Land and Food Systems

The University of British Columbia

The food system

  • Marked increase in complexity

  • Increased prevalence of soft preservation technologies

    • Modified atmosphere packaging

    • Increased reliance on refrigeration

    • Development of concept of hurdle technology

    • Emergence of previously unrecognized pathogens

    • Increased globalization

What i was taught 43 years ago
What I was taught 43 years ago LEARNED?

Pathogens (Salmonella) could not survive in acidic products such as orange juice.

Concept of microbial injury was unknown

Moulds were considered to be innocuous (a nuisance but not dangerous)

Food irradiation would be the technology of the future

Foodborne disease
Foodborne disease LEARNED?

  • Animal products were main vehicles

  • Fruit and vegetable microbiology not a priority

  • Canned food products prevailed in the market

  • Main topic of discussion was

    • C. botulinum, Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus

Food safety issues
Food Safety Issues LEARNED?

Temperature control in distribution, retail, food service and consumer sectors

Cross contamination between raw and cooked foods

Hand washing and employee hygiene

Cleaning and sanitation was a cost and of low priority (object was to minimize costs; little staff training)

Potential promise of automation would decrease incidence of food borne illness

What has improved
What has improved? LEARNED?

  • Technology for detecting pathogens in food

    • DNA and RNA technology enables following pathogens through food system and identification of sources of contamination

  • Understanding behaviour of pathogens in food

    • Microbial modeling programs

    • Understanding impact and importance of microbial injury phenomena

    • biofilms

Hurdle phenomenon
Hurdle phenomenon LEARNED?

E. coli O157:H7





Synergistic interaction among factors; pathogens cannot

grow or survive under conditions depicted. Perceived

hurdles greater than actual measured values of factors.

Food safety
Food Safety LEARNED?



Rapid identification of pathogens and sources

Internet technology permits rapid communication (data transmission; etc)

Internet technology enables dissemination of information

  • Human behaviour

    • Hand washing difficult to teach and enforce

  • Decreased human resources for inspection and training

  • Internet technology itself will not promote learning and education about safe food handling

Food safety1



Technological methods to control pathogens in food

Technology provides opportunities to develop innovative educational tools

Reliance on technological solutions to control pathogens in food

Need human resources to deliver education and training supported by technological resources (internet based educational tools and resources)

Food safety2

Opportunities LEARNED?

New technologies improve our comprehension of the food system


Complexity offood system is increasing

Pace of change is increasing

Impact of global climate change

Increasing concern about persistent organic pollutants in food system


Four decades and counting
Four decades and counting LEARNED?

  • Temperature control is still an important issue

    • Have we made progress in retail and food service?

  • Human behaviour

    • Handwashing is still an issue

  • Complexity of food processing and distribution systems is an increasing challenge

The future
The Future LEARNED?

  • How will the regulatory system respond to increased presence of urban and small scale agriculture?

    • What are the food safety challenges surrounding urban agriculture and small scale food distribution and farmers markets ?

    • How much of a shift will there be from global to local production of food (especially fresh produce)?

Evolution of food science at ubc
Evolution of Food Science at UBC LEARNED?

  • Food Science Department

    • 1969

    • Department Head: Bill Powrie

    • Major in Food Science

      • Faculty of Agricultural Sciences

    • M.Sc. And Ph.D. degree programs

    • Each course had an associated lab

    • Students required to complete undergraduate research project and associated thesis

Major program changes in 2000
Major program changes in 2000 LEARNED?

  • Department of Food Science dissolved

  • Program in Food, Nutrition and Health created

    • Food Science

    • Food and Nutritional Sciences

    • Food Market Analysis

    • Food Nutrition and Health Major

    • Nutritional Sciences

    • Dietetics

Food science at ubc
Food Science at UBC LEARNED?

  • Professor David Kitts

    • Program Director, FNH

    • 6 faculty members Food Science

      • 3 faculty members in Wine Research Centre

    • 6 faculty members Nutritional Sciences and Dietetics

Major program changes in 20001
Major program changes in 2000 LEARNED?

  • M.Sc. Programs in Food Science, Nutritional Sciences (research based)

  • Professional Masters Program in Food Science (started in September 2007)

    • 12 month program

    • 3 month practicum in industry

  • Ph.D. programs in Food Science, Nutritional Sciences

Land food and community core courses
Land, Food and Community Core courses LEARNED?

  • All students in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems

  • Course in each year of the program

  • Promotes building of community of learners

  • Promotes dialogue across disciplines in the agricultural production/food system/consumer spectrum

Food science
Food Science LEARNED?

  • New courses developed

    • Meet IFT guidelines

  • Lectures and labs were decoupled

  • Developed an integrated lab course

    • Product oriented (yogurt; fruit leather; canned salmon)

    • processing of product

    • chemical, physical, microbiological and sensory tests appropriate for product (eg. Fruit leather)

    • Report writing and presentations

Food science1
Food Science LEARNED?

  • Capstone course (FNH 425)

    • 6 credit full year course

    • Group project (4 to 6 students/group)

    • Industry partner

    • Students work on project identified by industry partner

    • Oral presentations (group) and final report (individual) for industry partner

    • Students and faculty advisor sign confidentiality agreement with industry partner

Evolution of food science
Evolution of Food Science LEARNED?

Course content changes as technology and the industry changes

There are many constants (many basic principles remain in place)

New information necessitates revision of course content

Even though course names do not change, the content undergoes revision on a regular basis