Healthy and Safe Food Systems

Safe & healthy food systems

When we think of food, we think of pleasure, taste and pleasant company. But the concerns surrounding our food are on the rise. Food-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes type 2 are increasing at an alarming rate. But issues such as malnutrition, food safety and food fraud also demand our attention. And finally, our pattern of consumption severely impacts the environment. Through applied scientific research, Wageningen University & Research contributes to healthy and safe food systems.

Over the coming years, the research programme ‘Safe & healthy food systems’ will focus on the influence changes in food production and consumption have on the health and safety of our food. In doing so, this programme is linked to other research programmes within Wageningen University & Research, more focussed on circularity and food security. Our researchers operate through a systemic approach: we study western food production and consumption of individual food products within the context of the food system as a whole, eating habits and society. The generated knowledge forms a basis for interventions designed to stimulate healthy and safe nutrition within a sustainable food system.

Four pillars support the programme:

  1. Advancing healthy and safe food production
    In this pillar, we use reverse engineering methodology: Consumer and market interests, safety and quality are used as points of departure for the development of a new ingredient, product or process. Thus, we strive to develop safe and healthy alternatives, that better fit the needs of consumers and the market.
  2. Health and safety of food products
    In our present food systems, quality control generally takes place at the end of the food chain. In this pillar we focus on the development of new or improved sensory technology and diagnostics, that can be applied to plants, food or animals. This way any safety risks and fraud can be identified at an early stage. Furthermore, technologies allowing the consumer to use a smartphone to detect threats are under development. Finally, alternatives to animal testing are being developed, such as the possibilities of non-invasive methods to determine human health issues.
  3. Healthy, sustainable and safe food choices
    In this pillar, we aim to gain a better understanding of exactly how consumers make choices, and how we can influence these choices to promote healthy and reliable products. We are developing a new model that can be deployed to change human behaviour in specific situations. New technologies are also used to understand the perception and behaviour of consumers better.
  4. Safeguarding healthy and safe production systems
    In this pillar, we analyse the food system as a whole to gain knowledge on how microbiological threats to humans can originate in the system. The generated knowledge allows us to predict better where risks may arise in the chain and how we may prevent them. Ultimately, this knowledge should contribute to a healthier food pattern.

In this research programme, Wageningen Research (WR) works together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) and businesses to solve social issues. WR receives financial resources from LNV for implementation.