One ecosystem, one food system: the social and ecological context of food safety strategies

  • David Waltner-Toews


Eating is the most intimate relationship people can have with their environment. As people have migrated, in very large numbers, from various parts of the globe, as well as from the countryside to the city, they have brought to their new homes not only their intimate familial relationships, but also their intimate environmental relationships. Intraand international trade in human foods and animal feeds amounting to billions of dollars annually support these transplanted eating habits. Infectious disease agents, toxins and environmental contaminants of all sorts are globally distributed along with these foods. Furthermore, the internationalization of a substantial portion of the food industry, along with urbanization, has resulted in unrealistic consumer perceptions of food, and fostered ecologically and socially unsound food production and food safety practices, which themselves are creating new food safety problems. Effective food safety strategies, which by necessity must account for the contamination of the environment in which the food is grown, as well as the environments through which it passes on the way to the consumer, need to be global in both breadth (socially and geographically) and depth (ecologically). As well, the desire for democratic social control now evident throughout the world, along with this diversity of culinary tastes, suggest that a successful global food safety strategy would do well to reflect the kinds of diversity and complex interactions seen in natural ecosystems.


food safety ecological social 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Waltner-Toews
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Population MedicineUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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