Challenges in the Food Industry

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An inspector checking sugar as it moves down the production line.
An inspector checking sugar as it moves down the production line. (Image: Avatar_023/iStock/Getty Images)

The food industry faces many kinds of challenges: consumers express more concern than ever about food safety and their own health; government regulation restricts use of practices that could harm the environment; cost of inputs such as fossil fuels are rising; and international trade is more complicated than ever. As the global population increases, food producers worldwide face increasing challenges to the delivery of safe, inexpensive, nutritious food.

Sustainability

Modern agriculture uses enormous amounts of fossil fuels and contributes to greenhouse gases that accelerate global climate change. Some experts, including food writer Michael Pollan, have advocated a more local food system, eliminating as much transportation, processing, and packaging as possible. This practice could lead to a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly food industry.

Health

Nutrition-related illnesses are increasing, chief among them Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Not only are consumers looking for more healthful food choices, but laws regulating use of ingredients such as trans fats are giving food producers little choice but to adapt. Instead of using only the cheapest and best-tasting ingredients, the food industry will need to consider long-term health effects of the food it provides.

Safety

Diseases in animals and crops can find their way into our foods. Recalls of meat, spinach, and eggs, among other foods, threaten the confidence consumers have in food safety. Developing nanotechnology could help detect early signs of disease in both animals and crops, keeping tainted food sources from entering the supply chain. Such technology could also aid in delivery of micronutrients such as antioxidants that could ultimately make food more healthful.

International Issues

Many foreign countries have relied on cheap grain imports for decades, allowing their agriculture industries to atrophy. With worldwide grain prices increasing in the first decade of the 21st century, some countries have found themselves unable to purchase or produce enough food to feed their own populations. These countries now find themselves in the position of having to re-learn how to produce enough food for their people.

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